UNDEAD REVENANTS, fierce and bloodthirsty beasts, always traveled in secret. Vampires never made a sound. Humans rarely knew that they were prey for the damned as well. Shadows, they were. Shadows, they’d been since the beginning of time.
Underneath the breath and thoughts of mortality hid the secret nation of vampires, a race of dark souls intent on abiding by a Code, a contemporary set of rules of conduct not like the primitive ways when the world was young and man was younger. Countless centuries ago, vampires used to not only feed, but kill without mercy. They were animalistic.
Not so anymore.
The Code spoke of Eat to Live, Not Live to Eat, Be Shadows of the Night, Be One With the Darkness, And Never Let in the Light….
In essence, for centuries leading up to modern times, vampires hid in secret, a quiet yet conceited ‘respect’ for their nourishment, the tender flesh of mortals.
The Code never stood alone, though. With it sat two councils of the world, hidden away from mortal eyes. One was the First Blood Council of Russia, forged of freezing fires in the icy wasteland. The other was the First Blood Council of South America, hidden in the darkness of the Andean mountain ranges.
One Council enforced the Code and upheld the sanctity of the vampire on the east side of the world. The other controlled the west side of the globe. Both were not alike in ambition, demeanor or respect for their fellow brethren, however…. Most notably, the Council of Russia’s respect for the sacredness of the vampire stretched in many directions, some questionable.
As it stood, the state of the Eastern Vampire Nation shook the pillars of Hell and Heaven. From setting suns to rising moons, covens warred with each other. Different breeds disagreed on many issues such as territory and law.
All because of the Council of Russia.
Their ravaging experiments, their twisted nature of turning the vampire into a project of discovery, creating new breeds unheard of by many, thankfully unseen by innocent eyes, and unknown to only the noblest of purebloods, infected their dark minds. Slowly, the Council fed on their own greed, and the rape of their own nature. Creating a truly vicious breed among many…the threll.
….Deep in the bowels of the Sihkov, a ship sailing on the Atlantic, the crew members had stored an endless row of massive cargo crates. Runaway mice inhabited the darkness. Piles of dust and more piles of dust atop every cargo box infected the air, and fluorescent lighting around the entire room lit the way in case any of the seamen did an inventory or checked for leaks in the hull.
Strange that a threll could possibly be lurking in the shadows of the cargo hold, waiting to tear flesh, drink blood. Destroy life. And the crewmen wouldn’t even know. At least not until their necks were ripped out.
When a victim drinks the blood of a living vampire, the dark gift takes over: they become like them. Thrells, however, were different; they were mortals forced to drink dead vampire blood.
The horror of that was the gift of the host didn’t translate to the parasite. It was a sick infection. A curse. That vampiric beauty became a twisted mutation, flesh wrinkling hideously and their minds degrading into savagery. Very much like the ancient vampires of hidden times in the past.
Unfortunately, not only was the threll an unacceptable breed, it was also spreading like wildfire. It grew in numbers well past that of the purebloods. Some feared. Others were mystified. Most never even knew. Except one.
His name was Nikolas Stahl, Master Vampire of Russia, representative of the nation within the continent who worked with the Council.
He absolutely loathed the infestation of thrells. More passion of hatred fed his fire than that of human blood. He became a terrifying adversary so much that he even opposed the Council on many occasions. Bitterness raged. Thrells gathered. A war to come. And it was all from Nikolas’ hands.
Even the head of the governing body himself, the Dark Calling, couldn’t rein in Nikolas. The Minister of Shadows, master vampire charged with the matters of rogues and reckless breeds, didn’t agree with him—much. The Guardians with their mysterious ways, soldiers of the Council fortress, couldn’t best him in battle when bitter arguments boiled over. Even the Scarlet Sentinels, shadowy priests, attending to the dark desires of that arduous bloodlust: none of them could stave off Nikolas Stahl or his need for purity.
It was unfortunate for him, however, that in great numbers, the thrells of the Vampire Nation hunted him down. Naturally, the Council did nothing about it.
Nikolas fled Russia. But he had a mission, a very private, passionate, powerful one. It was a mission that could give him the power not only to end all thrells, but to overtake the Council that had opposed him so many times. He would obtain the greatest of glory. He would become Master of all….
The saber in the sky cut through the night as clean as a killing blade would if it had a history of blood behind its hilt. The streak of lightning reflected the thoughts of Nikolas and his secret mission. Stars, like drops of bright blood shed from the blade’s glowing steel, glistened. Reflected in the raging waters of the Atlantic Ocean, nothing held peace. The rise and fall of the waves resembled undulating rolls of liquid fire hissing left and right. The clouds toiled around the moon and stars like a cloak suffocating the light and harkening in darkness. The rain wailed, burst eardrums and hearts with the constant drone of percussion, blast after blast, atop the Sihkov. It headed toward the Port of New York to deliver goods.
Men toiled as the ocean toyed with the ship, foamy waters crashing against its starboard side and billowing over its bow. The crew onboard didn’t expect the storm that soon; nevertheless, they readied themselves. They had turned on the lights. The skipper manned the radar and satellite, staying the course, unwavered by the gale. In the haze of howling winds, ripping rain and tearing waves, the men hollered commands to each other. All hands were on alert, never faltering. Good men never falter, not when it involved goods, or the invaluable materials the ship carried.
Strange the lack of care some men tended to take with goods. A scrawled signature to the ship’s manifest, a checkmark as the cargo was lifted aboard and stowed. But they never really…checked. Who knew what they carried around? History had shown transits, in cargo or on planes, had carried numerous unknowns all the time. Not unheard of. And most of the time authorities neglected or at least remedied unknowns such as indigenous insects or plant life or curable diseases after passing through customs.
One of the containers in the hold blasted open in a splash of sawdust, wood splinters twirling in the musty air.
Naked, heaving, powerful—a slender man stood in the middle of the debris, eyes like cigarette lighter flames and eyebrows pointing down to the bridge of his nose. His silvery hair reached down to his lower back and reflected the fluorescent lights, making the room brighter.
He checked the other boxes around him to find that none of them had been tampered with or damaged. They carried the rest of his belongings—clothes, treasures, china, blankets, pillows and heirlooms. He hadn’t planned on a vacation; not that this was a holiday. He was on his way to his new home, the United States.
For a long time, he hungered for a godly treasure, a sacred book. If not for his bloodlust, he’d spend the whole trip in the box, conserving his strength, letting time melt away so that he could continue his personal mission in America.
Some seamen shouted through the ceiling. Waves smashed into the hull as it creaked and groaned again. Nikolas swung each way, wary of every noise and whisper. He felt more vulnerable in the middle of the room…and he couldn’t shake an uneasy feeling…that someone or something watched him.
He crouched in his broken box, staring up, forehead creasing…waiting.
Something else hid in the shadows of the room. He felt it.
Squealing mice scurried past. He shifted, following their pattern. Not the mice, he thought.
He felt a heat of danger rise inside his body, and his eyes burned with fury. Someone hunted him. He knew it, above all things. The prize, soon to be his, would be in danger of landing into someone else’s hands. Unacceptable. He would let the sun ravage him before anyone else acquired the one thing, the one truth.
A clawed blur shot out from the darkness, reaching for Nikolas’ throat. In a breath, he blinked and crossed his arms, meeting the mysterious thrust with iron-like hands clutching cold, wrinkled, leathered skin and tossing the figure away. The blur growled as it scrambled up. Nikolas’ eyes widened to better catch sight of the attacker. He couldn’t think fast enough as it crawled toward him.
The beast smashed the crate with steak knife-sized talons. Nikolas leaped backward, growling at it. He landed atop a box on his knee, hair falling into his eyes. Bladed teeth bared, he waited for the monster to come after him.
It hopped into the air, claws out in a maddened frenzy.
Nikolas snatched both arms and stood his ground. The force of the impact caused the crate to almost tip over as vampire and beast locked together, vying for an advantage. An anger of survival hanging on him, Nikolas stared into the eyes of a wretched demon.
The beast smiled hideously. Its putrid, discolored face and bright feral eyes begged to dive into his flesh and kill. Its horrific body, covered in loose, tangled brown hair, and long claws ached to pierce his eyes and taste his blood and brain—the creature drooled hot saliva, growling, roaring, pressing. Hating.
Nikolas howled as he strained to lift the monster over his head, breaking the battle of strength. He tossed it clear across the room, smashing the fluorescent lighting on the far side. The breakage rendered the room a mess of sporadic light and dark.
Nikolas lost sight of the beast. He crouched on the box—heaving, teeth bared—muscles tightened into something raw and ripped. His unbreakable focus glared at the spot where he threw it off.
Holding his breath…death waited….
As the light flickered, he saw nothing. The room went dark….
Light flashed back on, and the beast stood in front of him, frothing at the mouth.
Nikolas gasped, cutting both arms in a pounding double backhand, knocking the beast into a delirium for a few seconds. He roared, the saliva starting to drip down his fangs as the monster reeled.
The creature snapped, widening its eyes.
It drove one talon into his shoulder blade. Blood spattered, flesh tore. He gritted his teeth, grunting. Pain didn’t seethe in him—rather the thought of being pinned by such a wretched abomination sent his fury into the heavens.
Staring into his eyes, the fluorescent light like lightning, it spoke…. “It will be mine…Nikolas.”
Its voice, a wild whisper, bled into his ears and brought up even more fury. The monster grinned again, sensing a true victory. No creature would stop Nikolas from his quest. Come all things evil, he would find his prize and claim it for himself. No beast would have his glory.
Nikolas screamed as a wave crashed into the side of the hull, tearing out the monster’s talon and tossing the threll into one of the containers, shattering it. The creature howled as it bled from the point where the talon had snapped off.
Without taking a breath, he broke off two strips of wood and leapt toward the beast, driving the two pieces into the beast’s arms, pinning it to a box. It howled again, blood rupturing from both arms.
Nikolas wrapped a hand around its throat, subduing it. Death would indeed come…but not for Nikolas. Not before he received answers.
“Ferus, I presume?” he said.
The monster spat, gnashing out at him, unable to sink its teeth into his smooth, bare skin. Nikolas stayed his fury for just a moment.
He had felt sure no one followed him; it apparently didn’t pay to trust his own senses. He feared this wasn’t his own personal quest for glory any longer but had become a chase with him as the prey.
“The thrells of Mother Russia are after me, are they not?” he asked.
Ferus stared before he began to laugh while Nikolas stewed over his unanswered question. Nikolas took deep breaths, still feeling the sting of Ferus’ broken talon in his shoulder.
“Strange that you laugh, Ferus, knowing I have you pinned here.”
Ferus snarled. “You’re oblivious, Nikolas…you have no idea what you face.”
Nikolas twisted the wood in Ferus’ wounds. The threll howled in pain.
“I do, indeed. I face a mindless monster with too much pride to talk and would rather die next to a box.”
“You will never find it, and the thrells of the world will overcome the Vampire Nation when we are the ones to claim it. We are tired of your petty oppression!”
“You are all abominations. Mere abominations.”
“My brethren, including Breed, will come after you….” Ferus said, cackling.
Nikolas glared. “Breed? How would that perversion of nature know where I am?”
Ferus met his gaze with an icy glare.
“We know everything,” the threll said. “Sometimes…just sometimes, it is a benefit to lurk in the shadows as we do.”
“And why is that?”
Ferus laughed. “We hear secrets better.”
Nikolas growled, feeling his face burn with heat. His voice grew a little darker as he breathed. Ferus ridiculed him with those cold, wild eyes, cracked lips, long nose, wrinkled skin and jagged teeth. To Nikolas, Ferus’ life was no more than an embarrassment to the proud Vampire Nation.
He let go of the wood, flexing his fingers to point at Ferus’ chest.
“Doesn’t matter, Ferus. I will find it. I will find the one who knows of it.” Nikolas drove his fingers deep into Ferus’ chest cavity, exploding the threll’s ribcage. Ferus gasped for breath, shaking madly at the pain. “And when Breed finds me, he will meet the same end as yours.”
Nikolas had pierced Ferus’ heart with his nails and had felt the quickening of blood blast throughout its organs. The threll’s body went limp. Its heart ceased, the blood slowing down but not stopping as it poured out of its wounds. Between every flash of light, Nikolas growled, driving his fingers deeper inside. As if Ferus’ quick death didn’t satisfy him. His simple act of invasion, the need to kill, to take and to dominate, that mattered more than the death. Nikolas smiled with glee at exploring Ferus’ insides.
He’d had enough, ripping his hand out.
Leaving Ferus there, Nikolas stood with the talon still stuck in his shoulder. Blood stained his naked body. He couldn’t help but wonder how many more of the thrells would come after him. With his opposite hand, he grasped the talon and pulled it, pieces of flesh coming out, blood dripping down the side of his chest. Nikolas clenched his teeth, unable to make a fist, his arm tight with the rush of anguish.
No worries. After all, he was a revenant. A master vampire.
Nikolas walked toward the stairs where he still heard the seamen above. The storm never left. He felt the waves crash into the hull. The flashing light enticed him to walk up the stairs.
He was a vampire. Again, he felt the heat of hunger well inside him. This time, it wasn’t the heat of mere anger and the drive to kill; this was the bloodlust.
In time, his wound would heal with enough rest…and enough blood.