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Ashes of the Dawn

By Melissa Rebhahn All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Other

Chapter 1

Patrick lifted his head to the sky; the cool salty Atlantic night air gently kissed his face before it swirled under his opened overcoat and moved on. How he yearned to see the moon and stars all alight, illuminating the dark earth below. Sadly, the lights that brightened Portland’s nightlife dampened the cosmic beauty. He tried to remember how they looked in non-polluted sky, but it was shady. Even the rumble of cars and the low buzz that emanated from building signs were a white noise to dull his memories. The world had become loud; there was no solace in silence, no quiet contemplation. Everything around him changed yet he remained the same, a relic of a time long past.

He strode down the damp city sidewalk with a briefcase firmly in hand. A dark gray herringbone double breasted six button suit adorned him, coupled with a burnt orange waist coat and a soft white linen dress shirt with a simple black tie done in the Eldredge knot; loose fitting black trousers that made his legs look longer and his height more imposing. The clothing flattered his broad shoulders; it masked a body cut from the finest of white marble, smooth in it's features save for sharp edges cut into the planes of his face, but if one could touch this statue they would feel the strength of the rock underneath. 

Lustful and hungry stares came from the shadows. Streetwalkers tried to get him to buy into their trade while the men looked at him as if he were a target and they the arrow. They could smell the money in his clothes, see it in his walk; money that could be taken if he was pulled into a dark ally.  The women he ignored; he had no desire for that kind of practice. As composed as he was he yearned for the men to give him an excuse to cut loose.

A metal song blared from Patrick’s cell disrupting his contemplation. He wrinkled his nose and his eyes widened a bit; there was no memory of him adding such a tone deaf song to his phone. Going by the lyrics he could make out he was tempted to let it got to voicemail. When Cyrus called it normally meant something bad was about to go down, or it had already and he needed back up. Such was the life in the Awakened World. It was either boring or had so much excitement it could jump start a vampire’s heart.

With a deep groan he pulled the phone out from his coat pocket, “What do you want?”

“Where are you? I’m at your house, positively bored,” Cyrus said sarcastically, “I thought your meeting would be over.”

“Well, if you were paying attention you would have noticed all my cars are still there. I am walking home.”

“Can’t you run home? Honestly, for someone who dislikes the city you enjoy walking around in it – Oh, are you eating?” Cyrus asked, as he realized why his long-time friend might not have headed straight home.

“No, I did that last night. I just wanted to go for a walk. I will be home shortly –”

Everything blurred and his words tapered off. A little girl stood at the mouth of a darken alley; her clothes covered in what looked like soot. Her eyes locked onto him like she was a predator and he her prey. Those eyes held a familiarity but Patrick didn’t know why; he knew no child. Her clothes were dated, really dated. Questions pulsed through his mind like heart beats. Where were her parents? He moved closer to her as if pulled by an unseen force. A hoarse shout came from further within the alley; it was clear enough that the people who walked by would’ve heard it too, but as was the custom now, people just ignored it. Patrick was tempted to do the same; it didn’t concern him, but rage overtook him when he felt a presence after the yell.

“Open a bottle of mead; I need to go.” Patrick promptly hung up his phone and moved towards the weak cries for help.

He turned down the alley; a young woman crawled in his direction, swollen bruises and badly wounded. Her clothes looked like rags that had been drenched in blood. The sweet tangy smell of iron threatened to seduce Patrick; it took all of his resolve not to tear into her neck, thankful he fed the night before or nothing would’ve stopped him. There were two men behind her; one reminded Patrick of a skunk with his hair done in two tones. The other looked like some punk rock band reject; he even had one of those stupid haircuts. They laughed as they moved up to her nonchalantly, like boys who just kicked a sickly stray. A profound feeling of dread and the smell of the grave radiated from the two men.

Whelps with an ill upbringing; I hate kids.

“Hey, fucker, this doesn’t concern you!” the punk reject said, noticing Patrick for the first time.

Patrick looked at them as if they’d grown another head. He curled his lip with abhor.

“It seems you lack proper manners.” Patrick snarled.

 Shadows came alive and darkened like the Void. People avoided the alley; some even crossed the street to get away from it. It was like death itself had possessed Patrick. The two vampires stepped back slowly, aware of what he was and that they had infuriated him.

“Look man, she’s ours ... Go find your own,” the skunk one said, as he tried to stand his ground.

“Did you do this to her?” Patrick asked unruffled.

“So what if we did? The fuck are you going to do about it?” The punk reject countered.

“I don’t care if no one has seen her and therefore you are within the basic rules. This is my city and this treatment of prey will not be tolerated!” Patrick moved forward and closed the gap between them; within moments he was inches from the young vampires.

Patrick grabbed the one that reminded him of a skunk by the head; the muscle of his hand barely flexed when his fingers broke through the bone wall and into the soft contents it protected. While his other hand pierced through the rib cage of the rejected punk as if he was made of paper and clenched down on his dead heart.  The sensation when the heart burst offered Patrick a pleasure he forgotten he relished. He pulled his hand out with what remained of the heart and let the man drop to the ground as he released his grip from the other's now smashed head.

“Well, that should stop you two from going anywhere until the sun comes up.”

Patrick grinned as he examined his hands, “And here I was just wishing to let myself go,” 

He turned around when he heard whimpers, it would seem he momentarily forgot about their victim.

The woman sat on the ground, her knees pressed against her chest.  She looked at him with eyes stained red from tears and pupils dilated. She tried to scream but nothing came out, Patrick attributed the bruises around her neck to helping with the failed cry for help.

“No need to panic like that. I saved you after all, but where is the girl? Was she a ghost? A specter trying to save you from a similar fate?” he asked her. There was something about her that pulled at the back of his mind as if he should know her. 

When the woman tried to crawl away and strain her voice to scream Patrick realized this wasn't the time to contemplate such things, “Enough of that, time to sleep.”

Quickly he moved up to her and leaned down as he placed one of his hands on her head and held her as she sank into unconsciousness.

“I should have handled this better,” he chided himself; should’ve just scared them off so he could take her to the hospital.

He could’ve just left her; someone would have found her sooner or later. That didn’t mean, however, it would’ve been someone of good character. When his mind played scenarios of the more likely case Patrick sighed and felt a pang of what he could only imagine was compassion.

“I guess there is little choice – I am sorry.” he whispered solemnly to her.

He waited a few moments before he called Cyrus. Down on his knees he cradled the woman in one arm as he dug for his phone with the other, “Thank God for technology. How we survived without it, not even I understand.”

When he heard Cyrus’ voice come over the cell he wasted no time, “Cyrus, stop what you are doing and come get me. You know where I keep my car keys. Hurry, I am in a side street on Main Street, by the old café.” Patrick didn’t wait for an answer before he hung up the phone. He’d explain everything when Cyrus arrived.

Time passed as a silent current that smashed against Patrick and its waves were his thoughts. His conscious bellowed at him for the choice he had made; the tidal wave of thoughts crashed into him so violently he didn’t notice that Cyrus had arrived. The drive back to his home was quiet. His attention was solely on the woman he had saved. She was an enigma, it baffled him, and brought discomfort.

When they arrived at his home Cyrus insisted that he carried her so Patrick wouldn’t be hindered while he opened doors. It also allowed time for Patrick to take a small break from the blood as he gathered what he needed to treat her. He washed the blood off his hands in the basin of water that rested on his dresser. He watched the blood and water swirl together becoming one. She had been badly beaten, but nothing seemed to be broken just bruised or cracked, things she could avoid a hospital for. Thankfully, Cyrus had medical training and did most the work on her; and that allowed Patrick to change out of his bloodied clothes.

“It would seem your army medic days still come in handy.” Patrick said.

“According to her driver’s license, her name is Aria Broderick,” Cyrus said, from where he sat in a large leather chair that masked his size; ignoring the comment about his time in the army. He was slouched and watched the woman who slept on the bed with intent, “So are you going to turn her into a thrall, since you didn’t kill her?”

Patrick stopped cleaning his hands and looked up, his eyes fixated on his reflection in the mirror and the image behind him. How queer it was to have a living mortal in his home, no less his bedroom; and how the dark room made the whole scene feel ominous, “If need be. I am going to wait until she is awake and ask her,” the vampire said casually.

Cyrus shot Patrick an amused look, “Seriously? You’re going to ask her?” He shook his head, “I don’t see the choice in it. She’ll either bow to you willingly and knowingly, or you force her? You might as well just do it and get it over with.”

Patrick removed his hands from the basin and dried them off with a towel that was slung over his shoulder. He moved over to the bed and sat at the end corner that faced his friend.

“I’d like to give her the option to know fully what is going to happen to her life. You know I don’t like thralls. I have never had one, and I don’t want to start now unless I need to,” he said as he looked at Aria.

Cyrus guffawed, “Well, best of luck with this,” he said as he leaned over and ruffled the vampire’s ginger hair.

Patrick scowled pulled his head back and quickly tried to repair the mess Cyrus had made of his hair, “Don’t treat me like some bloody child, I am older than you.”

Cyrus looked like he was trying to not explode with laughter, “Isn’t it normally childish people who have to remind others of their age?”

A low growl escaped Patrick, but he said no more; he didn’t want to feed the werewolf.

“As for the young woman,” Patrick said to cull his annoyance. Cyrus was one of the only people who could push his buttons and keep his limbs, “She is in the rapture of youth’s folly. It has been an age since I had to deal with that, not since Elizabeth…’

Patrick studied her. Her hair was dark like wet earth; messy and stuck out every which way like a young boy's. He hated that women nowadays destroyed their hair in such a way. Her features were slightly rounded though she was not a curvy woman. Patrick couldn’t decide if it was just a matter of body frame or a poor lifestyle. He gave a look of repugnance; she would have to eat more. She looked like a waif to him.

Cyrus shook his head, “Grumpy old man.” The vampire preferred the old and dying.

They had at least some world weary experiences to which his friend could relate and a smell of death that was calming and desirable, now more than ever.

Cyrus took a deep breath and asked, “So, what makes her different? I mean why are you willing to do all this?”

The question broke Patrick’s concentration on Aria, “I feel for her in a sense. If I had taken her to the hospital, she would have told the nurses and doctors there what happened. Then, in turn they would tell the police. Basically at the end of it all, she would end up in a mental hospital, because she really saw what happened. Or she reminds me of someone I knew.”

Patrick decided it was best to not mention the little girl he had seen right before he heard the shout. He didn’t want his friend to know how bad he was getting. Not to mention he didn’t want to explain how this all yanked at him.

“You … care?” Cyrus asked puzzled.

Patrick glowered at him. “This is beneficial for both her and I. She doesn’t get treated like a mad woman and I get someone to run around for me during the daylight hours; as well as do any other tasks I think of.”

Cyrus held his hands up in defeat and dropped the subject.

The vampire knew this confused his friend, and worried him all the same. To show interest in a mortal now of all times, was hazardous. Vampires who took an interest in mortals when their mind started to fade wound up being the most depraved. Hours of small talk and bits of silence passed. Finally, Aria began to stir. Patrick moved to her and got on all fours over her. His hands held her arms firmly but not so tight that he would bruise her.

“Pat, what are you doing?” Cyrus asked with a crooked eyebrow.

“She will more than likely panic when she awakes; I am preparing.”

Cyrus shook his head. “Because looming over her like that will help?”

“Yes,” Patrick replied flatly.

Aria opened her eyes and met Patrick’s cold steel blues. He watched and monitored her face; how her amber eyes danced about as the gears behind them turned fervently. It clicked, like the last piece to an intricate puzzle. He was the man that killed her attackers like they were made of glass. She thrashed about under him and shouted at him hoarsely.

“Please stop trying to scream; it will only make your throat wounds worse.” Patrick said placidly; he felt the inherent elation when prey struggled, but kept it hidden.

“Way to go there, Pat,” Cyrus chimed in mocking his friend, “Why don’t you get off her so she doesn’t feel like she’s about to be attacked? You can’t be so far gone you forgot such simple things?”

She tried to wrestle him in vain. After the amusement of her pathetic attempts bored him he adjusted his hands so one held both her battered wrists while the other planted itself on her mouth. Once his hand blocked her screams, she stopped.

“You have – a point,” Patrick felt something akin to embarrassment, “I am sorry if my current position frightens you. I was afraid you would panic and do something that would cause you harm. Now, there is no reason to be acting like this. I saved you remember?”

Aria gave Patrick a wintery glare that made him grin.

“There were two men attacking you and I dispatched of them. Remember?” Patrick asked again. Aria nodded.

“There, see? No need to panic. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I have no desires of the flesh, like you might be thinking.” Patrick said in a poor attempt to calm her.

Cyrus sighed and placed his head in one of his hands as he shook it, “Nice work, Old Man. Maybe you should let me talk to her?”

“I have everything in control.” Patrick stated.

Cyrus fought to keep a straight face.

“Am I so amusing to you?” Patrick snapped at his friend, forgetting Aria for a moment.

The werewolf raised a hand up in feign hurt, “Why I would never.”

“Then control yourself!” Patrick growled.

“Now,” Patrick said as he brought his attention back to Aria. “I am going to let my hand off of your mouth. I will not move off of you until I am sure you are not going to try and run and hurt yourself, okay?”

Aria nodded again.

“Splendid. Please, no screaming. I merely want to ask you some questions.” Patrick removed his hand and let her breath steady before he continued.

“So, if you can, what were you subjected to outside of the men I found chasing you?” He asked.

Her demeanor changed, from a dog ready to fight for its survival to that of a scared pup. The sudden change led Patrick to assume prolonged torture; he drew blanks as to why any vampire would commit such an act. The sane ones didn’t see the point and the mad ones didn’t have the mental capabilities to do it. The pleasure was in the quick struggle and the kill.

She sobbed and shook her head no.

Patrick nodded, he would try again later. “I am going to release my hold on you and get off of you. Please do not run.”

After Patrick got off of her, he took a seat at the end of the bed. When she finally observed Cyrus she nearly jumped off the bed with fright. Patrick suppressed a smirk, how did she not notice someone he was talking to? Where was her mind he wondered?

“Don’t worry Little Lady; I’m a friend of his.” Cyrus pointed to Patrick, “Though I don’t know how comforting you might find that at the moment.”

“Cyrus, do you think –” Patrick started to say.

Cyrus stood. “Already ahead of you; I’ll swing by and look. I’ve got her scent, it shouldn’t be too hard. Not to mention her driver’s license.”

“Then I will see you when you are done.”

“W-wait –” Aria tried to ask as Cyrus left the room; her voice still coarse.

“You cannot go home right now. It might not be safe. You will be here for now; at the very least until I am sure you can handle being aware of this world. I am doing you a favor.”

Aria shook her head, “The…police…” she managed to choke out in confusion and panic.

The fear was clear in her tense muscles and oozed from her eyes but she had already stopped shaking. Patrick noted her decent display of bravado and wondered where she got her practice.

“The police will be no help to you now, trust me. This is for the best; consider it a vacation from your mundane life.” Patrick said.

“No, my mother…I need…”

Patrick watched as she called on all her remaining strength to stand only to taste defeat and to fall back onto the bed. A deep sigh escaped him, this was stupid.

“No, that’s final. You can’t even stand. There is nothing you can do, so why try?”

Patrick had long forgotten what it was like to have such futile determination. He didn’t miss it.

“I won’t… Let me go…” she tried to demand in her weak voice.

“You were crawling for your life. Something I would like to point out. Clearly, I don’t wish you harm or I would have done so by now.”

Aria ignored his words and continued to attempt to stand while she tried to speak protests.

Patrick thought he heard something about a phone, but she had none on her. He wondered why she was so defiant. If he were a mere mortal man he was sure she would have been killed by now; hell if he wasn’t as patient as he was she would have been killed in the alley way. The only reason she wasn’t dead now was because he had a use for her.

He watched enough of her failed attempts to be brave and grabbed her again. This time he wasn’t gentle. Her muscles gave under the pressure of his hands, bones threatened to break. Patrick lifted her up and dangled her in front of him. His face was inches from hers with is his fangs out so she could see.

A deep guttural growl escaped him, “Look, whatever you saw tonight, it might be nothing, just some insolent twats thinking they are gods among men. However, I like to think I run a tighter operation in my city and these idiots are proving me wrong. I want to know if there is more, and you obviously saw something by the look you gave me when I asked.” Patrick threw her to the ground as a show of just how little she was to him, to things like him. How easily he could break her physically; how easy it was to kill her.

He waited until her cries in pain ceased, “Don’t think you had some victory escaping them, we let you escape, because we know in this age no one will believe you. So we have nothing to fear. You are mine for the time being and I saved you from being killed, so be damn thankful!”

Aria mewled in pain but said no more. He regained himself and helped back into the bed; thankful she didn’t put up a fight. Maybe he should have tried harder not to look like the monsters who tortured her, but he was like them. He couldn’t let her ever believe otherwise. The line that separated Patrick from those who attacked Aria was based on which kind of monster one wanted to be; the one who lived under the bed or the one dressed like an angel.

“I –” Patrick started to say; he averted his gaze, “I will check on you later, don’t do anything stupid, please. I will do what I must to keep you here, and I do mean that. Do you understand me?”

Aria didn’t respond at first but slowly she gave him a nod.

Patrick sighed and helped her lay back down on the bed and tucked her in. “Well, I have done it now. Cyrus will be most displeased with me. We will try this again, yes?” he whispered to her.

He turned the light off and left the room there was no need to worry about her running now. He just might have done the one thing he was tried to avoid.

“God help me, it has been too long since I have really dealt with a human. I have forgotten so much. Maybe the mutt was right.”

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