Chapter 1 ~ The Escaped
Chapter One: The Escaped
The ringing screams that polluted the air weren't the first thing that caught my attention, nor was it the scent of blood. They were both things I was frighteningly used to, especially in this part of the city. No, the thing that had me lifting my head was a shadow moving towards what I now considered my prey. I leaned forward on my perch high on the ledge of an old factory, giving me a clear view of all below.
Street lights cast an orange glow on only small portions of the alleyway below and the human woman who staggered on towered heels to gods know where. There was nobody else about, and every vampire that used the city as their hunting ground knew to give this area a wide berth unless they wished to incur my wrath and be booted from the city completely.
I focused in on the shadow that slunk across the the ground, keeping close to the wall with the soundless movement of a skilled predator.
The fact the creature blended in so well with the darkness meant that this wasn't just some new born vampire that had accidentally stumbled onto my territory to hunt, this was an old one who knew very well that he was trespassing on my land. Mine. And he was staking his claim, because he knew I was there, watching. He could sense my presence just as I could his. Power positively rolled off of him in waves that had me leaning even further from the edge of the building, drawing me like a moth to the flame.
Not just an old one then, an ancient one.
His age meant nothing to me, however, because if I let him take my hunt from me now, he would do so again. I had to make it clear that he was allowed here only because I allowed him to be.
Standing up, I stepped off the ledge. Wind rushed past me as I dropped with bent knees, ready to hit the ground in a cat-like crouch.The shadow stopped his approach on the woman who he had stolen and turned to face me as my feet touched the ground with a gentle thud.
I stayed crouched for a second longer than necessary, my eyes adjusting to the new light. I was correct in thinking the shadow was a he, his dark hair framed his face and bright blue eyes stared back at me, studying me as I did him. Standing slowly, I bared my fangs, a subtle warning that I was prepared to defend my territory.
"You are trespassing. I have every right to kill you where you stand." I hissed, taking measured steps towards him, body tense and ready to fight.
A flash of pale skin and a weak chuckle were all I could make out in the dark until he spoke, his voice hoarse, "On the contrary, child. This is my territory."
I laughed, shaking my head at the audacity of the vampire before me, "This has been my land for-"
"For about a century, I am guessing."
His interruption was met with silence from me, how did he know that? It was not common knowledge. When I came to this part of the country, I was more than surprised that this was free hunting ground to be claimed, and claim it I had.Claimed territory meant first rights to prey, and control over who you let hunt with you.
"You see, I have been...indisposed for a while and unable to protect this city from vultures like yourself but this is my territory and I am here to take it back."
Snorting and folding my arms, I stood my ground. There was no way I was giving this place up, not after fighting off so many vampires and other creatures of the night to take it. Whether this man was telling the truth or not, he had left it free for the taking.
"I am no vulture. You were not here to defend it so are therefore not worthy of it." I replied indignantly, irritated by the term he had used that described the lower and mostly new vampires that were little more than pests.
Sharp pain blossomed as I was thrown against the brick wall behind me, a cold hand pressing against my windpipe. The light from a nearby lamp finally illuminated what had been hidden from me and my eyes widened as I took in the sight.
The bright blue eyes were the most life like thing about him. Glittering like sapphires with power and immortality but the rest of him, from his disheveled black hair and too pale skin was that of a corpse.
Blood stained his lips, the tell tale sign of having recently fed. No wonder he had not been around to defend his territory, because if what I guessed was correct, then he had been left to rot since before I had taken over. No wonder nobody had claimed the territory.
"You're one of the imprisoned." I managed to choke out, nails clawing at the hand he had a round my throat, trying to break free only to be surprised by his strength.
He grinned, letting out a throaty chuckle and I gagged at the smell of rotting flesh, "Recently released."
"Released or escaped?" I countered, watching his grin widen further but there was a darkness in his eyes, one that told me I had just poked the bear.
He lifted me until my feet dangled, toes barely touching the ground. I sucked in a breath, my chin lifting as I tried to breathe.
"Depends on your point of view."
I scoffed, my nails digging into his wrist as I struggled to pry his fingers from around my neck. The act only made him tighten his grip and my eyes widened as he squeezed, making me choke again.
"This is my territory. Make sure everyone knows it, keep the vampires away from here and I will let you stay. Understand?" He snarled before dropping me to the ground.
I hit my knees with a thud, taking in greedy lungfuls of air. My throat was bruised but it would soon heal and the surprise of his order caught me off guard while I struggled back onto unsteady feet.
"I will not be your lapdog." I spat, anger fueling my stupidity at talking back to someone I had no chance of fighting off.
It had become all too clear that he was more than me and therefore far above me in the food chain. I was alive due to his mercy, if you could call his treatment of me that.
"Then I suggest you get far away from my hunting ground and stay away until I summon you. Go back to scavenging for scraps in the lower city with the rest of your kind." He sighed, as if tired of the encounter.
I bared my fangs and hissed in fury. How dare he come here and kick me out my own territory like I was just another young cocky vampire. I may not be as old as the best of them but I had far outgrown the decades of hunting in the dodgy parts of the city, feeding on the homeless and poor. I had come into my powers over fifty years ago and now lived a life of luxury, even if I was still struggling to get ancients to take me seriously.
"I won this place fair and square. If you want it, you must challenge me for it." I growled, pushing myself to stand tall, to try and illicit even a small amount of fear or wariness from him.
His reaction was not only unexpected but highly irritating. Instead of even the slightest look of doubt about me, instead of beginning to size me up, he laughed. Not just a small chuckle but a full blown, body shaking laugh. It was eerie to see. An almost corpse with dark circles around bright eyes, rotting flesh stretched too tight over high cheekbones. I shuddered, disgusted with the sight and more than a little unnerved.
"You are funny, young one, and I appreciate your boldness. That is why I offer you my deal one more time," he said too sweetly before his entire aura changed once more. His eyes flashed dangerously, pearly white fangs descending behind cracked lips and I was back against the wall once more, "before I rip you to shreds."
The threat shook me to my very core. Waves of power beat against my skin, searing cool flesh. I would have whimpered had I not schooled myself in giving away nothing when in pain. He would kill me, I had no doubt, just like I did not doubt that if he had decided to accept my challenge, I would have been killed in seconds. I now had only two choices; accept his offer or run...and fast.
"I accept." I grumbled bitterly, relaxing as he released me again.
He smirked, nodding and lifting his fingers to play with a strand of my blonde hair, "Good girl. I will need a place to stay tonight...perhaps having you join me while I regain my strength wouldn't be a bad idea. I need someone to watch my back."
My eyes narrowed as I snapped back, "I'm no bodyguard."
At the rise of his eyebrow, I cowered back against the wall, terrified he would hurt me again.
"Come, child. Let's hunt."
He followed the trail the drunken woman had left behind and I followed begrudgingly like a puppy following its master. Every now and again he would peer over his shoulder and I would give him a sarcastic smile.
"What's your name, child." He asked, rounding a corner and giving me the chance to look up at the sky in despair without being caught.
I reached his side once more and mumbled, "Shylah."
"Firstly, when I ask you a question, I want you to speak properly and clearly. Secondly, if you are as loyal as your name suggests, we should get along just fine." He smirked, looking down at me.
I didn't look at him, the woman from earlier was slumped against a bin and the sound of her heart hammering had my instincts kicking in. A bony hand gripped my shoulder, stopping me from taking another step.
"You can feed once I have taken from her what I need." He stated, squeezing my shoulder painfully to make sure the message was received.
I nodded stiffly, folding my arms across my chest as he moved with lightening speed over to the human. He took her in his arms, fangs glinting beneath the streetlight before sinking them into the woman's neck. I sighed heavily as the smell of her blood reached my nose. My jaw ached with the need to feed, my arms curling tighter around my body in an attempt to keep me from pouncing on the human.
Blue eyes pierced through the air to meet mine, mocking me as the sound of his feeding had me groaning. Carefully I took a step, waiting to see if he'd admonish me but he didn't so I took another...then another, until I was next to him. He nodded his head and stepped back, dropping the unconscious woman into my arms before wiping his mouth. I took this as permission and quickly sunk my fangs into her. Rich, hot blood spilled into my mouth, leaving me moaning and pulling her body tighter to my own as I fed. The tension left my body, even as my eyes never strayed from the ancient that watched me with something akin to desire in his eyes. Blood did that to us, no matter who we were around, it kindled the flames of our baser instincts, but that look was too much for me to see so I looked away and focused on the sweet liquid that spilled from the warm body I cradled in my hold.
"Finish quickly, the sun is about to rise." He ordered gently, his eyes flicking to the every lighting sky, his tone catching my attention as I expected his harsh barking demands.
I dropped the body, knowing she'd wake in a few hours non the wiser.
I wiped my mouth then stared in awe. What was once grey and decaying skin on the ancient vampire that had ruined my night was now pale white and glowing with vitality. Once lank black hair now shimmered like spilled oil, his lips pink with life and curled up in a grin. His body was still nothing but skin and bone but I knew overnight, as the human blood rushed through his body, he would fill out again. One might be able to surmise that he would be quite handsome, or was.
"Lets get to what I'm sure is your hovel of a home until I find a place of my own." He said, motioning me to show him the way.
I grumbled but didn't bother correcting him. He would soon see the place I lived was no hovel.
I lead him through the alleys, uneasy having him at my back, until we came out into the city centre that was still bustling with activity. Trying not to stare too much at the ancient that followed me with wide eyes as he took in cars, flashing lights and the occasional thump of dance music that drifted from night clubs, I focused on keeping to the shadows.
After what I'm guessing was around a century of imprisonment, this must have been hard for him to take in. I couldn't imagine the agony he must have been in, nor could I figure out how he could have kept his sanity with only his thoughts and the pain of his decay to keep him company in whatever tomb or cave he had been kept in. He had hinted that he had escaped, which was not hard to believe, imprisoned were rarely released and when they were, they were watched by the council to make sure they wouldn't go on a killing spree. I doubted that I wanted to know how he managed to escape.
Soon, the tall glass skyscraper that held the flat I called home came into view. I pushed open the door and ushered him in, ignoring his look of disbelief as I once again took the lead to the lift. It's doors pinged open and we both stepped in then stood in awkward silence with only the irritating music the lift always had playing keeping the silence from being deafening.
Once more the doors pinged open onto the floor I lived on and still the vampire looked around, especially at the lights that hummed with electricity. I took the keys from my jacket pocket and unlocked the the door to my flat, walking in first, knowing he would follow.
"This is where you live?" He asked incredulously, taking in the large and open living-room/kitchen with massive windows making up one wall.
"Yes." I replied stiffly, not feeling comfortable having another being in my private space.
I had always been a solitary being, even as a human I had preferred my own company and his obvious distaste for my home irked me. It may not be the fanciest apartment, nor the biggest or most expensive, but it was mine and far better than the shacks and abandoned buildings I had called home during my first decades as a vampire, and even when I was human.
"You have done well for yourself, child, taking the city as your own and living the life of nobility."
I wasn't sure if his compliment was sincere of if he was mocking me so I didn't answer, instead going to the fridge to take out my only true friend, vodka.
I watched warily as the ancient walked around my flat and started drinking straight from the bottle, grateful for the burn the liquid made on its way down.
"Atanas." He suddenly exclaimed, whipping around to face my with those startlingly blue eyes.
For a moment, I was caught in their depths before I managed to blurt out,"Excuse me?"
"My name." He replied, amusement in his tone, looking at me as if waiting for some sort of glimmer of recognition that never came.
I snorted, "What kind of name is Atanas?"
His eyes narrowed on me, fangs peeking from behind full lips. I realised my mistake too late and put the bottle down, ready to make my escape if he went to attack.
"You have some mouth on you, it will get you into trouble. Although I would be greatly surprised if it hadn't already." He mused, sitting languidly on the couch, an arm draped over the back.
He wasn't wrong. My mouth had indeed gotten me into much bother in the past but I had skills in a fight that managed to get me out of the trouble I got myself into.
I said none of this however, just stared at him.
Everything in me was telling me to make him leave, that he was in my space and shouldn't be, that if I turned my back, he would kill me. Survival instincts were the only thing I had to rely on in this world and I always trusted my gut, so why was I letting this vampire stay, no matter how old he was. He was in a weakened state, I could take him. Or maybe it was time to be on the move again, surely if I left, he would not come after me? But this territory was my prize, the proof of my capability, leaving would be a defeat too hard for my pride to swallow.
"Whatever thoughts are swirling around in that pretty head of yours, you best cast out now. You're mine until I say you are not. As much as it pains me to admit it, I need you. I know nothing of this time, nothing of the politics of this world and nothing of the vampires that roam either. If I am to have my revenge, I'm going to need your help and you will help me, Shylah, won't you?"
His smirk said it all, even though his body was draped lazily on my couch, I knew he could have me by the neck again in seconds, so with gritted teeth, I nodded, "Of course."