Drake (Book 1)

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[44]-Memento mori

Hampshire

12:03 a.m.

Excitement and trepidation tore Roland’s heart asunder. He lived for the thrill of the hunt and before him was his most prized prey. Drake. He blew derisive snorts from his dog-like nose and dug his ax into the ground using the steel spike on its other end. He closed his eyes and thought of pouring rain and clapping thunder. It brought him some solace, but not much.

Tearing apart fragile humans and devouring became moot, and he viewed it as nothing more than carrion; like lambs to the slaughter. The hunger to desire and consume corrupted his mind and the time before his transformation became blank. It had been fifty years, maybe a hundred since then. He wasn’t sure. But he remembered a foreboding storm with black clouds that hovered over the river Thames.

The same song repeated in his head. A child’s voice; someone familiar to him.

“London bridge is falling down

Falling down

Falling down

London bridge is falling down

My fair lady…”

Drake challenged him with the first step, unbuttoning the top of his shirt and removing his coat. His blue eyes were fierce, and the scythe resonated with a low trill as if ready to devour his soul. Its blade grazed the stone, melting it and leaving glowing marks in its wake. Roland narrowed his eyes. He turned to Molly, lying on the edge of the platform unconscious. She, too, reminded him of another woman.

Roland retrieved his ax and took up an offensive guard. Drake’s countenance remained blank, and he twirled the scythe in his hand. Even as he faced him now, he still felt the same he did as a human. A god stood before him; at least in Roland’s eyes. A god or perhaps an angel, fallen from grace. He longed for Drake’s affection and his blood. He never knew his own father. But it didn’t matter anymore. Drake was his father…

The outcome of this fight… will be decided in one blow. Whoever strikes an instant faster will be victorious…

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, becoming in tune with the world around him. Drake’s shallow breaths. The water dripping from cracks in the ceiling. Lyn’s blood lingering in the air that smelled like Ambrosia. And even his own breath colliding with the frigid air and dispersing into fumes.

His hands strangled the pole of his ax. His weapon had never felt so cumbersome.

“Build it up with iron bars

Iron bars, iron bars

Build it up with iron bars

My fair lady”

A fair maiden with phoenix colored hair curled her lips into a grin. She held Drake’s arm as the two of them loomed over him. Her angelic beauty left him dumbstruck with doll-like curls and skin. A white umbrella shielded her and Drake from the rain. He could see the pity in her amber eyes.

He shook his head to see Drake standing before him, and his body moved on its own. They kicked off a foot, lunging towards each other. Roland swung his ax and his momentum put him past Drake. He saw a faint streak of light and a metallic ring before losing sensation to his lower body. And to his horror, his body split in two from his left shoulder down to his right hip.

Death’s touch lingered over him as his blood saturated the floor. The color washed from his face and fur, fading to a light gray, and a chill brushed his heart.

“Iron bars will bend and break

Bend and break, bend and break

Iron bars will bend and break

My fair lady”

Drake looked over his shoulder and regarded him coldly. Acheron’s light grew dim before returning to its simpler form. Drake sauntered to him, a silver crucifix in his hand illuminating.

“I remember now,” Drake prompted. “There weren’t three brothers. But five…”

The tendrils sprouting from Roland’s back dissolved, as did his wild mane. His body withered away into dust. He gasped and summoned the strength for his ultimate words even if barely above a whisper.

“William didn’t survive…” Roland replied. “The other three: Dacre, Darius and Ivan all sought power. I wanted to find you until you murdered them. I couldn’t forgive you for killing my brothers…”

He gripped Drake’s ankle and pulled. A fruitless endeavor but nonetheless, the dying man insisted.

“Why did you condemn us to this fate? To murder the very things you created-?”

Drake lifted his hand from his ankle and said: “I told you all those years ago. You would lose something with the power you got. You did it for love, but love was the thing you lost…”

“I see…”

The crucifix glowed vibrantly with the screams of a thousand birds. Drake presented it to a dying Roland. His body dissipated into a blinding light and his soul escaped the prison binding him to this tormenting hell. His ghostly appearance left Lyn puzzled as she limped to Drake’s side and grabbed his arm.

“I absolve you,” Drake said somberly.

Roland’s soul became a bright orb and ascended to the celestial bodies above. The crucifix shrunk, and Drake attached it to his hip. He turned to Lyn and placed a hand over her head.

“You did good.”

Lyn blushed and trailed after him as he departed the auditorium.

“What about Molly?”

“She’s alive,” Drake replied, curtly. “I owe her nothing more; my debt is paid.”

She glanced at Molly’s unconscious body and made a face.


2:36 a.m.

He watched Lyn untie the topknot to her ponytail as she shed her clothes. They would make love again, but not tonight. Last time, he held back against her; unknowingly, but much more vanilla. He was awakened now and craved her warmth. She would succumb to his carnal desires and her hips would once again tremble as he climaxed; spilling his seed inside her.

But a dying Roland continued to bedevil his thoughts, and he twiddled the crucifix in his hands. He gazed out the blinds of Lyn’s flat at the full moon. No matter how much she cajoled him; they would not be making love tonight. Guilt oppressed him like heavy chains on his limbs.

Lyn moved the sheets and pressed her nude body against his. She rubbed his chest and kissed his freshly shaved beard. He snaked an arm around her and stroked her long, green hair.

“Are you thinking about Roland?” Lyn asked, not lifting her head from his chest.

“Yes…”

“You can tell me. Talking about it might make you feel better,” she suggested.

Drake sighed. “Well, it was over a century ago I think. In London…”

Heavy rain and lightning that lashed like a whip came to his mind. He walked with Anna that day past the outskirts of the slums. Horses clapped their heavy hooves on the pavement as they pulled their carriages. Rats scurried across the streets in packs into narrow alleys and people dashed into pubs and buildings to shield themselves from the rain. Policemen with their dark cloaks and tall hats packed up their wagons and carriages, holding heavy kerosene lamps in their hands.

The policeman yelled and snapped his whip. The horses neighed before taking off in a slow strut and pulling the wagon away. Drake watched them disappear over a steep road going towards the riverfront. Anna stood by his side, holding the umbrella as he counted the bag of pounds in his hands.

He stuffed the pounds in his trench coat, and Anna took his arm. Godfrey opened the door to their carriage, holding another umbrella. But Drake heard a cough; as did Anna…

She gripped his arm and said: “Wait…”

Drake tilted his head. “What?”

Anna pointed to the alley behind them. She released her hold and took off much to Drake’s displeasure. He sighed and followed her as she led him deeper into the decrepit alley. He saw the end approach and Anna came to a sudden stop, gripping his arm.

“They’re dying…” she said.

“Who?”

A group of boys, five to be exact, huddled together against the wall. They shivered and the tattered blanket and newspapers did nothing to comfort them. Dirt covered their faces and trousers. The smallest child who sat towards the end wore a pair of torn trousers, suspended only by a safety pin. Gaping holes exposed their tiny toes from weathered shoes.

The oldest, Roland, looked up and adjusted his hat as drips of rain slid from the roof above them. He stared at Drake and Anna, mesmerized but aloof. His brothers coughed and huddled closer. Their faces were pallid, stricken by plague.

Orphans…

Anna shook his body. “Will you help them, please?”

Drake sighed. “Anna, you shouldn’t have brought us here…”

Thunder clapped with a blinding lightning. The clouds closed in, and the alley was in complete darkness. And for the first time, Roland saw Drake’s blue eyes glaring upon him. Then Anna’s amber eyes glowed.

She beamed at Drake sullenly and crossed her arms. Her stare would have burned a hole through him if he waited any longer. Finally, he sighed, defeated, and approached Roland.

“Boy, do you want power? The power to protect those who are precious to you?” He glanced at the other dying boys.

Roland nodded.

“Then I’m going to give you that power. But just know you’ll lose something. Do you accept these conditions?”

“London bridge is falling down

Falling down

Falling down

London bridge is falling down

My fair lady…”

Anna tossed the umbrella aside and twirled in the rain. She continued singing as it soaked her white dress and red curls. But she was free and cherished every moment as if it were her last. Drake extended a claw from his index finger and jabbed Roland’s neck. Roland winced and closed his eyes. He opened them and it was already over. The veins popped from his neck, resembling black roots that spread across his body. Roland collapsed and writhed in agony on the ground.

“Remember, you must die…” Drake whispered to him and ambled away.

“Gold and silver we’ve not got

We’ve not got, we’ve not got

Gold and silver we’ve not got

My fair lady”

Anna joined him under the umbrella and giggled. She wrapped her arms around him.

“Anna, you’re all wet,” Drake quipped.

She smiled. “But I’m thrilled right now!”

Drake kissed the top of her head. “You have a voice unlike any other my love.”

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