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Chapter 1.1 - MAGPIE

In a soft rush, the shower of sand fell from his body as he pushed himself upright. His eyes watched the glittering grains of powdered quartz, feldspar and mica as they flowed, shifting, creating soft ripples into the indentation he’d left behind.

He shook, ridding himself of the stowaway sand from his person, his hair, his clothing. He then spat out the hollow bone he used to aid breathing during his self-vivisepulture, onto his palm. With almost reverential care, he cleaned the macabre implement, wiping it down with a piece of soft linen before wrapping the bone and secreting it within the inside panel of his tunic.

Movement close to his foot drew his attention. A desert cobra was taking up residence amid the area of shifting sand he’d just vacated. The black ophidian predator was settling in for the day following its nocturnal hunt, its head remaining just above the surface and no more. With two or three rapid flicks of its tongue, it tasted the air before its coils shimmied one more time then stilled completely, buried beneath the sand.

“Sleep well, little one,” he murmured to the serpent. “Your hunt is over for now. Mine is about to begin.”

Dawn sliced across the horizon in a sharp flash of white gold. Night was quickly ushered away by the steadily brightening new morn, warm colours spreading out over the land. He stood, breathing in the already arid air, watching the sky turn its kaleidoscope of colours; incarnadine, saffron yellow, peach, lavender and periwinkle blue. The shimmer where sky met the earth promised another day of unforgivable temperatures. He would need to start moving soon to avoid the intensity of midday.

He knelt down and uncovered a satchel, careful not to disturb the sleeping reptile nearby. Inching away, he shook the bag, sand dusting down, sliding back into place within the dip. He tugged the canvas open and rifled about inside. His ears rejoiced at the sound from within, crystallised tinkles and rattles as his fingers closed around several items. He retracted his hand to perform his daily inspection.

Glinting gems, lapis lazuli, turquoise, pearls, amethyst, emerald and diamond, some set in silver, platinum or gold, twinkled in the light of daybreak. Their cold cut multi-facets offered an air of quiet satisfaction, a warmth in the knowledge that their worth could provide him with a very comfortable lifestyle should he so wish to partake. Their once opulent owners were testament to that, but they no longer had need of them. What good were jewels to the dead, after all? He put them back inside the satchel and pulled it taut, ensuring none of the enclosed wealth could fall out. He then hitched it onto his shoulder.

Luke’s altered state was still a wonder to him. Every day he checked his hands, looking for the brown spots which would betray his true age, but his 25-year-old self remained ageless, unblemished. No aches or pains troubled him, he was as lithe as the day he chose to drink of the crimson flow; that coppery nectar he was drawn to and which he lapped from the hallway floor.

Now he stood, fifty years on and somewhere in the Arabian Desert, stretching and flexing his muscles abolishing the residue of his slumber. He stared over the dunes, content. He travelled for the hell of it - he was completely free to do so now, had been for many years. Along the way, he would ‘gather’ - again just for the sheer hell of it. He was like a magpie, he loved shiny things - always had; baubles and trinkets, one of his guilty pleasures.

So, he travelled and picked up what he could, which was easy enough, considering. He wasn’t picky as such, he just recognised wealth when he saw it and after dining on the hosts, would relieve them of their jewellery and such likes.

He had connections, he wasn’t exactly clueless, and had, although unbeknown at the time, picked up on some of his father’s business acumen and utilised this knowledge along the way, careful to keep his true identity secret.

And who would suspect the likes of him capable of such violence anyway? Besides, even if his identity was to be uncovered, disbelief would ensue. He was pretty sure if anyone still questioned the mysterious disappearance of Luke Dubois following his family’s unfortunate demise, no-one would suspect he was one and the same. He would have to be in his 70′s now and here stood a young whelp of 25.

The statistics were also in his favour for another reason - more crimes were committed against his ‘kind’, rather than by them. Not that it was a particular consideration any more these days. In fact, that part of his life was completely redundant - a casualty it seemed of becoming what he now was. It was the one thing he sorely missed from his once mortal and then reviled existence.

Still, he was not bitter. Actually, he was as euphoric as he was that first agonising night when he’d realised how his life had dramatically changed. So not at all strange then, how after all this time, he finally wanted to locate his ‘maker’. He sniggered. Not that the vampire knew he had bred another, of course, his miraculous essence had not been given freely nor intentionally. Wouldn’t he be surprised, though?

He checked his map and compass, his destination Qatar for a flight. Oh, if it wasn’t so serious, it could be such fun bedazzling the security at airports these days. How times had changed.

He let his mind drift back to thoughts of the tall, rugged, long-haired vampire. While he knew from his past experience in the vampire’s company, Cain was not of a certain persuasion, he still enjoyed the odd fantasy about him.

With a grunt, he fixed his keffiyeh in place, a little protection from the pending rays of the sun. “Time to find you, Cain,” he mused. A small laugh then tripped his lips. “I think you should meet your protégé, after all.”

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