The open prairie was eerily quiet, and the storm I followed froze in time. The air buzzed with the threat of battle, and my hairs stood at attention as I fought to contain the glow of my skin. The Egyptian goddess was remembered in this area, and the prominent description was her ability to glow like the sun. No other vampire had that ability.
I left Egypt a millennium ago with my mate, Gabriel. We sailed the seas with human pirates until the storm on the horizon called to me. I was certain the goddess would have long been forgotten. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
“Do you feel that, Ode?” I projected.
“Yes, my queen. There is trouble near.” Ode’s nose was in the air as he looked for the threat.
Ode was a tall male born in southern Africa. His dark skin was beautifully etched with self-inflicted scars. They remain on display for all to see how powerful and respected he was as a human. As a vampire, he remained proud of his accomplishments and used the scars as a testament to his strength.
Ode discovered my presence as I sought the matriarch of the region. The glow of my skin caused him to defect from his queen and follow me in my journey to find the Nundi, despite my protests. His eyes bore through me, as all males do, and said, I am pleased to see the goddess is not dead.
The goddess breathed her last breath long ago and shall remain dead.
My staff hummed as I crouched and touched the soil of the vast prairie. The quiet before a battle was a distinct feeling that a warrior never forgot. This felt ominous, more dangerous than before. The frozen dark clouds in the sky confirmed there would be a battle the likeness I had ever witnessed.
“Lara.” I heard a small whisper.
Ode growled a warning and tipped his spear toward the intruders. Kirsten and Gabriel slowly approached as they took in the surroundings. Gabriel’s green eyes glowed with a red hue, and his power began building in the pit of his stomach. He would kill Ode if he attacked him.
“Ode, lower your weapon. This is Gabriel, my companion, and my human Kirsten.” Kirsten was a vampire hunter who unwittingly became my friend. We met as I stood inside an immigration building in awe of its grandeur.
“What are you doing here? You are to be in a village south of here.” I asked as I glared at my mate.
“Don’t blame Gabriel. I was the one who convinced him to come.”
“You are a human. Gabriel is a two thousand year old vampire. He knew what he was doing. If he did not want to come, he would have found a way to make you stay.” I turned my attention to Gabriel, “It is too dangerous for the human to be here, Gabriel. Do you not feel the ensuing war?”
“I feel it.” He said solemnly as he unsheathed my master’s sword and presented its handle.
“Toutatis must be here,” Kirsten said as she strung her bow.
Toutatis was a human god of war who protected the tribes. History was rich with humans creating a god to explain the unexplainable.
“Foolish human.” Ode said as he gripped his spear. “Your god did not give you a weapon or the hatred in your heart. You did that.”
“Silence. All of you.” I growled as I scanned the area. A beastly scent softly touched my nose. Without a doubt, the scent came from the Nundi. Could the storm be my doom by the jaws of the Nundi? I looked up to the clouds as they glowered down at me, frozen in time.
I will accept my fate.
“On your knees and lower your weapons,” I commanded as I lowered myself to the ground and placed my sword in front of me. Without question, the others followed me.
I connected to Ode and Gabriel through the tendril, and instantly their desire to fight coiled my muscles. It took all their willpower to remain kneeling when an enemy lurked in the shadows. I took a deep breath to relax my body.
The ground vibrated from hundreds of feet moving as an army approached. Then the sound of drums sliced the silence with their warning. The beastly scent came from ahead of me while the drums sounded their ominous warnings to the east.
A deep rumbling growl came from in front of me. “Remain where you are.” I projected to Ode and Gabriel.
Ode and Gabriel both answered with their own warning growls. They hated the venerable position I put them in. Their frustration with me fueled their desire to strike.
Kirsten stood and placed her hand on my shoulder as she approached the beast. Her hand left my shoulder and stroked the wolf’s snout with familiarity. “I’m alright. They won’t hurt me.”
This wolf was as tall as the average man with a broad, muscular chest and golden eyes that seemed to bore into mine. He searched for the enemy he knew well. His dark gray fur rustled as a breeze quietly blew by. The ridge of fur along his back and the twitch of his tail told me he was ready to defend himself if I chose to attack.
Kirsten took a step toward me, and the wolf bared his teeth and flattened his ears. His huge neck blocked Kirsten from going any further. “Lower your eyes, you foolish vampire.” She whispered.
I did not understand why she whispered; however, I understood the signs of aggression well. If I moved an inch, the wolf would not hesitate to attack.
“I will not harm your human. I come in peace.”
Kirsten backed away with a worried expression as the pack circled around her and moved past us with extreme caution. “I know you understand my words, great wolf. If you cannot speak like I do, will you speak to me in your own tongue? I wish to become allies.”
Long ago, while I battled my master for my freedom, I learned of the battle he faced with the Nundi. They did not speak; however, their allies could. The Enopi translated the wolves’ command for the vampire to leave their land.
His stance changed as he leaned into his coiled hind legs. I had seen predators do this while I studied the species of Africa. He was going to attack. I resisted gripping my sword. My staff vibrated a warning and fought to block the attack.
My heart thundered in my chest as I refused to give in to my desire to defend myself. I must give trust to gain trust. The aggression I felt from Ode and Gabriel, along with the scent of fear from Kirsten made my decision to submit all the more difficult. Every fiber of my being screamed to attack.
I lowered my eyes and bowed my head. “I am not like the other vampires you have met, great one. My companions will not attack you unprovoked.”
Gabriel’s tendril vibrated violently, and his stomach churned with disgust at seeing his goddess and mate submit to a beast. His burning jealousy clouded his mind, and it was all he could do to remain docile.
As a paw larger than my hand came closer into my vision, Gabriel lost the little control he had. A flash of raging jealousy consumed me as he bellowed a chilling growl. Gabriel lifted me to my feet and yanked me behind him as his predatory instincts maddened him.
I was too late. The fragile beginnings of trust shattered. The wolf dodged Gabriel’s clawed swipe then braced to lunge at him. I called my staff and took my stance between vampire and wolf.
A trumpet blared through the rolling hills distracting our argument. We all swiveled our heads in the direction. A trumpet can only mean one thing. The enemy army arrived.
The wolf slowly backed away. His fangs bared, ears back and tail angrily twitched. The fur along his spine rose to a fine ridge that traveled from the shoulder to his tail.
“We will not attack. Go, Nundi.”
His eyes darted to Gabriel, then to me for a moment. Then with a battle cry of his own, he turned to flee toward the battle.
I rounded on Gabriel. My skin flared, and my eyes glowed a red hue. Ode immediately knelt to one knee and bowed his head. Gabriel remained strong and did not submit to me. “Am I not your queen?” I hissed.
“You are. Do you forget who you are? It is the beast who should bow to you.” He refused to follow a weak queen.
His courage to stand in front of me and speak his mind was one of his qualities I admired. Most cower under my gaze just as Ode did. “The goddess is dead, Gabriel, and she shall remain as such. I desire to be free and unburdened by that crown. I shall live the way I see fit. Do not cross me again.” I projected.
Gabriel’s hands balled into fists as he stood in front of me. His frustration threatened to choke my tendril. Gabriel required my submission; however, he cannot disrespect my authority in front of another. This argument was not over.
The battle taunts grew more intense as human warriors answered the call of the trumpet with loud cries of their own. Drums increased their tempo as the armies grew restless to attack. The clank of metal and the stomping of feet on the ground matched the intensity of the trumpets and drums. The battle was about to begin.
“Perhaps I can salvage this meeting. Arm yourselves. We will defend the wolves.”
“You go too far,” Gabriel growled through the tendril. “This is not our fight.”
The goddess within screamed her battle cry, and my skin broke out into the glow I was known for. “It has been too long since your blade pierced flesh, and the warmth of fresh blood covered your face. I would think you would desire to play.” I replied through our link.
My cloak billowed from the breeze as I took my staff and sword in hand. The steel of the goddess was on full display. I would not suffer any further argument from Gabriel or Ode. They either followed me or got left behind. I cared not.
Gabriel chuckled, “You know me well; however, it is not my skin I must defend.” Gabriel was unhappy that I chose to fight for our enemy. To fight in a war we knew nothing about was reckless. We may inadvertently fight for a cause we were against.
Despite his contempt toward my reason, he could not deny the rush of adrenalin he felt just before a battle. His hands gripped his sword as a grin crept along his lips. His eyes searched for his enemy while he dreamed of the blood that would soon coat his sword.
He longed to stretch his muscles and truly fight. We spar on occasion to keep our skills sharp; however, it was not the same as the sensation of warm blood washing our hands as our weapons sank into our enemy’s flesh.
Ode thumped his chest with the flat of his spear, “I will follow you into battle, my queen. None shall defeat the goddess.”
With a growl of frustration, I pulsed power and ran in the direction the wolves traveled. I gave the area a wide berth, so I did not attract the armies.
I am no goddess. I am a vampire. Nothing more.
As I got closer to the battle, the copper taste of blood was thick in the air. I slowed my heart rate and lightened my footsteps. Every fiber of my being was aware of my surroundings.
I projected my mind out around us to listen for any movement. Even though the battle raged ahead, wolves could be scouting behind to keep their flanks free of the enemy. One does not want to be surrounded. I carefully led my group through the woods until I could see the battle taking place along the rolling green hills.
What I saw astounded me. Huge black bears and horses with human torsos raged against each other. Wolves jumped on the backs of the horse-men, biting and clawing at their sides. Bears walked on their hind legs and wielded spears. The horse-men wielded crossbows, swords, and shields. The bear and wolf were allies fighting the horse-men.
Ode cursed at what he saw as his tendril vibrated with concern, “Centaurs.”
I did not know the species existed. None of my master’s scrolls mentioned them, “What are they?”
“Magical beasts as intelligent as any vampire. They use the elements to destroy their enemy while their warriors defend their territory. Those that are armored are a distraction. The true threat lies within the shelter of the trees.
“I do not understand why they are here. They live in dense forests and will not attack until provoked. They are far from their home under the trees.”
Despite the storm’s warning, this battle could not have happened at a more perfect time. It was as if the stars aligned and granted me my desire. I could not believe my luck.
I would soon regret those thoughts.