Prologue... England 1938
Nicolas entered the dimly lit hall of the ancient castle he knew all to well with a heavy heart. As he walked towards the library to find one of his oldest and dearest friends many questioned filled his mind.
Marcus had always been one for planning or plotting his next devious idea as soon as he'd accomplished his last. And that was precisely why after the information that he had received about his friend, made it that much easier come back to England after so many years absent.
The falling out that he and Marcus was, even now, still fresh in his mind. One thing would be made clear when he saw Marcus again, he would either listen to his advice or, not accept reason for someone, who had been outside the circle for so long a time.
At one time this castle had once been a second home to him. A place where he could find comfort in the endless days of immortality, especially when his past deeds started to weigh heavy on his soul. But tonight, in the quiet English countryside that he once loved, the only thing that permeated his thoughts were the rumors of Marcus wild ideas.
It had only been days before when he had heard from a trusted member of the Vampire Council where he had first hear of his friend's objectives. But what was even more confounding was, the council was agreeing to the madness.
His goal tonight was to see if these rumors possibly held any truth, or if they were a half-hearted idea, birthed by a very creative mind. Maybe, by some miracle, there had been just a misunderstanding of the notion.
Marcus had always let his mind run wild with impossibilities, setting some people’s tongues wagging with the sheer gossip to which it led. But if the rumors were true, someone needed to say something to stop the insanity from proceeding forward.
But no matter what had transpired between them in the past, they were still like brothers. And on the assumption that still held true, he was now going to be sure that Marcus was steering clear of folly, that is, before Marcus dug himself into a hole so deep that the devil himself couldn’t drag his arse up out of hell.
Nicolas pushed open the oak door that led into the library and his eyes landed on the high knights’ table that sat in the middle of the ancient room. Just to look upon the thick oaken slab brought him back to a time of a much simpler way of life.
His hands moved over the weathered wood, remembering every gouge upon the thick oak surface made by so many knights before him…and many after. The memories washed over him like a rushing river escaping its banks, as all the years of service to his king and country came to the forefront of his mind: the many battles that he and Marcus had fought, the woman with whom they had both fallen in love, and the family he had tragically lost.
Taking a breath, he let the old memories slip from his mind as his hand slid from the table. When anyone has to deal with Marcus, one must have their wits about them. Marcus can easily dominate a conversation if given an inch.
The sound of crackling wood coming from a fireplace in the backroom had always been a soothing sound to him. And to a knight, who spent so many years out in the open air with only a campfire to keep warm, it was the remembrance of his once humanity.
As he walked to into the room, he saw Marcus sitting in an old blue wing-tipped chair. His dark eyes glowed yellow as he stared into the flames dancing in the ornate fireplace. He did not stir from his seat; instead, the only movement he made was taking a sip of amber liquid from his goblet that he held in his hand, so Nicolas cleared his throat to get his attention.
Marcus' head tilted to the side to see a familiar figure standing in the light of the fire, giving him a darting look he would recognize anywhere.
“Nicolas, my old friend, it feels like a lifetime since I’ve last seen you.” Marcus chuckled getting up from his seat.
“It has been a while, hasn’t it.” He answered taking the extended hand before him.
“Well, not that I’m not happy to see you but, the last time we talked you informed everyone within ear range that you were done with Her Majesty’s country?” Marcus grinned.
“Well, yes and that still holds true. I love the energy of the States and the Food is in high supply over there. But honestly, there’s is a wildness there that I find so refreshing,” he admitted with a smile.
“That was a rather skillfully dodged answer,” Marcus replied.
“There was a reason I did decide to come back. You see, I was in New York a couple of days back, at the vampire committee hearing that had been requested of myself in a rather informal manner.” He started, but Marcus chuckled.
“I see, so they did pull you from whatever whole you were hiding in, that's brilliant. They can very efficient blokes when properly motivated. So, you’ve heard my ideas then?”
“This was your strategy all along, and bugger to hell if I didn't fall right into it! So you wanted me to know this foulness that you've been up to? Bloody hell man, I think you’ve finally lost your blooming mind.” He growled.
“Ah, well, was I ever really considered sane?” Marcus smirked taking his chair.
"You tosser, you’re a bloody genius and you know it! But to think that even you could take such depravity to such a level... no, I do not think even you could be capable of such atrocities to the mortals.” He exclaimed.
Marcus took a sip of his drink and smiled, but it was a smile that Nicolas knew all too well. “What have you done?” He hissed.
“I’ve only done what was necessary old chap, nothing more,” Marcus assured him.
“Do you remember nothing of what we were taught? We thrive when humans thrive. We have peace when we live in peace with the mortals. That keeps the balance of the two worlds. So let me reiterate, just what in the bloody hell are you doing?” he demanded.
“Well, let me ask you. How much do you know?” Marcus inquired.
“One of the members of the committee approached me, he said that he was happy that I was on board with the theories that you’d come up with, and was I planning on participating in the experiments you’ve recently designed about transforming the mortal into some kind of “clean blood”, as he put it. Then proceeded to blather on about having offspring. You’ve always been a bit dodgy at times, but this is beyond even you. ”
“I see you did gather quite a bit then by the look of outrage on your face.” Marcus chuckled.
“This is no laughing matter. Are you serious about this Marcus, stripping the humanity from mortals and making them into slaves?” He asked.
“Yes, that’s precisely what I’m doing.” Marcus shrugged.
“Doing? As in saying that these experiments have already begun?” He demanded.
“Bloody hell mate, of course they have. Once my mind is settled on something I always see it threw to completion. You know that. Besides, the top leaders of the committee have given their blessing already.”
“This is mad. It is not wise to play God Marcus. Even you should be aware of that.” He sighed with a shake of his head.
“Please, Nicolas, sit.” He offered as him, then his hand went to his forehead in exhaustion when Nicolas didn’t move. “I did not just pull this out of my arse, as you have said. There is an important reason for these drastic steps.”
Nicolas stood there, for only a moment, then took the chair next to Marcus. “I told you I was done with this kind of malice when we last parted.” He reminded Marcus.
“Yes, I remember the drama, but in truth, I’m glad you’re here. You see, the difficulties that the vampires are going to face in the upcoming years will be fierce. The mortals are careless with their bodies, as they are careless with the planet. The new innovations that they have created to better themselves, in time, will hurt us.” Marcus stated.
“Think my friend, think of the changes to society for when we walked the earth as mortal. They have grown significantly in just the past fifty years alone. Can you not taste the change in their blood from the poise they digest even as we speak?” Marcus questioned.
“I do not take the time to notice the taste. It is a way to survive, it does not relish in the act.” He growled.
“Typical of you. But I have done my research on the matter, and I have tested many different types of blood and have studied the mortals quite closely. The days of simple living are gone for us, my friend. When you once could find a beautiful wench and take her, blood and body, that is now at an end. These truths I’m telling you will only increase in time, mark my words.”
“It is not as dire as all that.” He rebutted but had a strange feeling that it possibly could be.
“As time passes by our food source will be corrupted, but not only ours, any and every creature that walks in our world will struggle for survival. This is the evitable truth, even now many are struggling to survive.” Marcus said as his rough scarred fingers caressed the goblet in his hand.
“Do you say all this in truth Marcus, or is this just another plot that you've created. If it is the truth as you say, then swear on our oath as brothers and knights." He pushed.
“I will swear it not only on the knight's oath, but I will swear on the graves of my Godsons, and your children. What I'm telling you is the truth. The vampire society that has already begun to show its crakes. Every fraction of our world hangs in the balance, and if the scale tips in the humans favor…our extinction is inevitable.” Marcus declared.
“Alright then, let’s say I believe you. Then what is it that you want of me?”
“I want nothing more than for you to join me in this venture,” Marcus exclaimed.
Nicolas ran his hands through his midnight hair, hoping for an answer that he knew he would not receive, then pondered his options for a moment. He glanced over at Marcus who sat calmly in his seat waiting for him to make up his mind.
“Tell Me, is there a price in this for you as well Marcus?”
“There’s always a price, old friend, you know that just as well as I do. Many will pay a high price for what we can offer them.” Marcus said in all seriousness.
There was truth also in Marcus’s words, but there was more than that going on, Marcus had his eyes on the prize as well. He was all about status and respect in the vampire community. If he made blood slaves, and a way for the creatures to procreate... that would bring him to a leave of power within the vampires that he would be, untouchable. And all while lining his pockets with the gold and riches that would be thrown at him.
“I understand your ideas I really do, mate. But how much more progress can mankind make in such a short time? It might be centuries before anything you’ve said became a possibility. No, I will stay out of your scheme. Besides, it looks like another war will be starting and I will do my part to help this world. Believe me, I will eat my fill of vermin over the next couple of years,” He offered getting up from his seat.
“I knew you’d come to that decision, but I thought I would give it a go anyways.” Marcus smirked.
“I wish you would rethink this. Remember, we too lived, just like these mortals you talk so carelessly about. I know you still have some compassion left in you, even though you try not to show that side of yourself anymore.” He said extending his hand.
“You always had such a soft spot for others, old friend, and this was one of the reasons why I always needed to look out for you. Believe me when I say any compassion I once had is no longer there. We are the dominant race, and I think it’s time we used it to our advantage. The strong have always ruled the world, it is time we took what is rightfully ours,” Marcus declared.
“I think it will be another century or two before we see each other again. Our paths are going in different directions and I want no part of the blood you’re going to spill. Stay well, old friend. And don’t get yourself into too much trouble while I’m gone.”
Marcus took his extended hand and then placed his other hand around his. “No more blood you say, yet you plan on helping them in their war,” he replied with a sad chuckle “No, I’ll be seeing you soon, mate. Probably sooner than you’d like it to be.”
With that said, Nicolas let go of Marcus’s hand with a nod and left. When he was finally outside the majestic front doors, he turned and looked up at the old castle with the memories of his best mate. This was the man that he had fought many a war with, who helped him heal when he nearly destroyed himself after burying his wife and children. A man he had rescued from the King of England’s dungeon, where he’d been imprisoned for having an affair with the queen, a friend who always kept him guessing at what was going to happen next. But now, now all he wanted was peace and quiet.
He slipped his hands into leather gloves as he walked to the tan Rolls-Royce that waited. The driver stood tall while holding the door ajar, but before he got into the car his driver stopped him.
“Is it as bad as you thought, Mr. Baskerville?” asked Hughes, his driver, and assistant.
“You know, I do believe it’s even worse than I had thought. Marcus is up to something of gigantic proportions. He even has the committee believing his words, and backing him up his game as well,” he admitted. “But the saddest part of this whole scheme of his is, he may be jolly well right. And if he is then I can safely say we’re all in terrible trouble.” He admitted ducking down to take his seat.