The Devil's Gift

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XXIV

I stood in the darkness, a safe place for a vampire like myself. Behind me, more vampires stood with their mouths agape. They were lesser vampires, formidable and virtually indestructible to a human though they may be. I myself am the only remaining firstborn of Satan which afforded me perks the other vampires all envied. I was far more powerful than they were, my speed was quicker, my eyesight sharper. Everything a lesser vampire could do, I could do better, faster too. We stood in silence, all eyes fixated, watching the figures in front of me with distinct caution.

Bright light radiated from the angels knelt before me, or perhaps it was the shimmering of their skin or maybe the reflection on their sleek, shiny hair. I took a deep breath, steadied myself for a moment and made my way towards them, shoulders back and standing straight. I listened to my footsteps thud on the grass; the silence was intensely loud. I stopped in front of them, staring incredulously, waiting for them to say something. They simply waited in silence.

‘Why have you come, who are you, who sent you?’ I demanded. My voice that was usually secreting a deep seductive edge was now seething with palpable hate.

‘Sire, my name is Armaita. It is Deus, he comes for your child,’ Said one of the angels with dark, soft brown hair, ‘we are here because we recognize the value of life. Never before have we been tasked with murdering an innocent child, we do not intend to start now.’ Her voice quivered as she spoke; she seemed almost unable to explain the horrific task that had brought them here.

I turned my head and cast my eyes questioningly at the vampires behind me. I pick up feelings of satisfaction; they were glad to see extra support. I was not so easily content, rather, cautious.

‘I find your presence here… Unsettling to say the least,’ I began, ‘how can I be sure this is not some trickery, that I am not being deceived? Speak, or I will tear your head from your shoulders where you stand!’

I felt my anger beginning to rise, the odds that the angels of all beings would be willing to deceive were much higher than I liked.

’To be plain, my lord,’ she said, putting strong emphasis on the words my lord, ‘you cannot. You must simply trust that we are telling the truth, but consider this, if we were sent here, our wings would not have disintegrated, we sacrificed our wings, our very reason for existence, for the protection of your child.’ The angel, beautiful and deadly, gestured to Sophia, my lover, my everything, who carried my unborn child.

I looked over to Sophia who stared back with piercing green eyes and a rosy tint in her cheeks. She was beautiful, one could have easily mistaken her for an angel. The truth though, is that she once was an angel, in service to the Lord and Creator. You may be wondering how she come to be carrying the child of a vampire royal.

Ever since her creation, she had always favoured Lucia, God’s lover. Lucia had been watching Deus (his name to the angels and Lucia) and she had discovered something that she was not willing to just sit by and watch. The one thing she loathed about Deus was his greed. He could never have enough, he could never be satisfied. It was his greed that he had accidently infused into his subjects once he had created Adam and Eve, the first humans.

Though Lucia had warned him, told him to let go of his greed, he created the humans anyway. So Adam and Eve had been created and he allowed them to live in a wonderful garden blooming with every type of flower, tree and shrub. There was but one rule the humans must abide by, to never eat the fruit from the forbidden tree. Lucia had been watching him cautiously, just waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Sophia had been her informant, gathering information on the humans and God’s rule over them. Finally, God had his back turned to the humans and Lucia seized the moment to strike. Pouring her anger into it, she created a snake and sent it into the Garden of Eden whereupon, it tempted the humans to eat the forbidden fruit.

When Deus discovered this, he had Lucia banished from heaven where she then created a realm of her own: Hell. A place filled with the flames of treachery and there she dwelled, never forgetting it was Deus who should be punished, and she saw to that. Everything God would do, she would match in a way to combat him, like some perverse game that would drag on forever. Sophia had always been loyal to Lucia and confronted Deus who punished her by clipping her wings and sending her to Earth to guide humanity into revering him. Lucia, forever dwelling on her hatred, had begun to change. Whenever she chose to surface, she would appear as a tall, slim figure, veiled in a black cloak, shrouding her face in darkness. She was mysterious.

It was in this form she chose to appear to me and my late wife Maria Romano. I lived a simple life as a priest, a happy man with two children, Charlotte and Benjamin. Though the memory was clouded and distorted, I recalled the faces in the church, all eyes trained on me holding a baby, Christina her name was, as I performed a christening. I lived in a town called Greyton that was destroyed following a freak storm, Deus’ personal doing of course, that destroyed the church and killed everyone inside. There was but two survivors, myself and a mortally wounded Maria. I managed to escape the ruins of the church, Maria in my arms, and find refuge on the lawn outside the church. After going back inside to retrieve the corpses of my children, the Devil (so Lucia had now been known as) appeared and offered a way in which we could not only survive, but thrive. I accepted her offer and thus, the two firstborns of Satan was created, reviving Maria to her, though the same could not be done for the children; they had already passed over to the land of the dead.

I paced slowly around the angels, thinking hard. It was true, their wings would have remained attached if they were doing the bidding of God, still, the thought of putting the life of my unborn child in the hands of the angels, was a difficult choice to make, but what other options did I have? I came to a stop, facing the vampires before me, Markus, Iandu, Dale and Riodean, the four vampire lords of China, England, Russia and America. I threw Markus a quizzical look; an unspoken question of judgement. He gave me a short nod. I considered the facts carefully before making a decision. As I thought, Sophia sidled up beside me and placed a hand on my forearm.

‘They are here to help Roconn, trust them, and trust my judgement… We have no other choice.’

It’s true, I guessed, we were left with one option, we must accept their help. I turned to face them, one last question still remained on the tip of my tongue and I felt myself unable to fight the urge to say it.

‘We gratefully accept your aid, but first, you will be expected to fight on our side, for our beliefs. Understand me when I say this, when the other angels come, you will be at war with them, it’s a battle to the death. Are you willing to fight against your sisters, to kill them?’ The five angels looked round to each other, communicating silently.

‘We will fight for what is right and what is true, we learnt it was Deus that struck first, your hometown, you were a priest, a man of faith. He killed everyone, your children, your friends, and almost your wife.’ Her voice began to crack, straining with emotion. I found myself almost wincing at these words, it was difficult to hear someone else repeat my past but I remained silent. The angels stood up in unison.

Through the gloom that had now taken hold of Castle Blackmoor and its grounds once more, I watched a tear trickle down Armaita’s cheek. I sheathed Excessus, my personal katana, forged by the world’s greatest smith, which had been drawn following their abrupt arrival, awkwardly; watching an angel cry because of the pain I’d been put through was difficult. I turned to Markus.

‘Markus, when will your clan arrive?’ I asked.

‘They should be here within a week.’ He responded immediately. I nodded and looked to the other three vampire lords.

After a quick discussion, it seemed I should be expecting the company of the other clans before the month was out. I had only hoped that would be enough. Five angels (Sophia was not to take part in the battle) and around a thousand vampires. I felt confident in our numbers, but not knowing how many angels and cardinals we were up against set me on edge.

With the angels following, we entered the castle and wove our way through the corridors until I lead the angels, Armaita, Azrael, Omniel, Orifiel and Mihr through to the council chamber where they could speak with Reyjak who was already waiting inside, and brought up to date on everything that was going on in these troubled times. I, after leaving the angels outside the council chamber, swept off to my bedroom with Sophia, I had to talk.

‘Sophia listen to me,’ I said the moment the door was closed. She turned to face me, a serious expression on her face. ‘We must go to Agartha. I know this is not the time for leaving the castle but I just know this is where I need to go.’ Sophia considered me carefully.

‘I know you feel you need to be there but what of your people? You are needed here Roconn.’ She said.

‘What use will I be to anyone if we all die? Right now I see a chance to give us hope and give us a fighting chance, to me, that’s just as important as my people.’ I replied sternly. She did not speak for a moment, she simply paced in front of the bed and studied the dark wooden floorboards.

‘Fine,’ she said after a few moments of silence, ‘when do we go?’ She asked.

‘If we leave now we can be there in half an hour.’ I replied simply. She agreed we would leave almost immediately, first, she needed to speak about something else that had been troubling here.

‘What’s the matter?’ I said, walking over to her and placing an arm on her shoulder.

‘I just have a bad feeling about leaving right now.’ She said, her voice shaky.

‘We’ll just have to risk it,’ I said. ‘We haven’t got much choice, we need to leave.’

A few minutes later and the cold air was biting at our face as we crunched along the gravelled path to hunt so the other vampires thought. The wind blew hard against me forcing my long cloak to billow out behind me. I looked to Sophia who wore a mask of deep concentration. It was curious how after such short time, she meant so much to me. I smiled to myself as we entered the forest that encircled the castle. As we listened to the crunching leaves beneath our feet I felt a horrible pang in my chest that instantly told me we were in danger. I stopped, as did Sophia, our eyes locked for a moment and it became apparent I was not the only one who had felt something out of the ordinary.

We turned in unison to a sight we were only too familiar with: enemies. Before us stood twelve hooded cardinals, clad in deep red robes. It seemed to happen in slow motion, they each raised their right hand, I noticed the jewelled crucifix gripped tightly in each of their hands. Then the crucifixes began to glow an unsettling orange-red before a fiery ball of light came hurtling towards us. For a split second I merely watched the orb career towards me as if time were slowed down. I watched the little flares pulsate from the orb before I flipped to my right, avoiding it at the last moment. I carefully eyed the cardinals.

Even more cardinals had been given the power of the Holy Cross. It seemed I couldn’t even leave my castle without being attacked. I unsheathed Excessus quickly and brought it swiftly down, opening a thick wound on the nearest attacker’s neck which began soaking his robes in his own blood in seconds. The man’s hands dropped the cross as they flew up to his neck and attempted to stem the flow of blood that was gushing down his neck. His eyes became unfocused as he swayed ominously on the spot before falling in a crumpled heap on the floor.

I eyed the remaining attackers. Before they could even react to the death of their comrade, I had already taken advantage of their lapse in concentration which afford me precious few seconds to counter-strike. Sophia was quick to join in and another three cardinals already lay dead before the others had time to attack again. As they raised the crosses once more, the blade of Excessus scarlet with its enemy’s blood, I braced myself, ready to dodge the next attack. Once more I leapt and twisted, narrowly avoiding the orbs that would turn me to ash. Sophia, being a fallen angel, had morphed powers which afforded her the ability to block the incoming attack with a flourish of her hands. As the orbs careered off-course and into the trunks of the thick trees that surrounded us, I struck again. In a flash of steel, another four cardinals had been dispatched leaving the remaining four to regroup and attempt to flee.

Though they may have holy powers, they were still human and what they may have made up for in offence, they lacked in speed. Sophia and I took quick advantage of this and hurtled through the trees, hot on their tail. Moments later and the remaining cardinals lay dead, their blood seeping into the dirt beneath the leaves upon which their corpse was now laid. I looked to Sophia.

‘Are you hurt?’ I asked quickly.

‘No, I’m fine, Roconn we must hurry, there could be more.’ She looked around the trees as if expecting another attacker to leap from behind a bush. When none did, she looked at me steadily.

‘I’m still not sure if Agar-’

‘Shh!’ I interrupted, not here, we don’t know who could be listening. My first thought were more angels that could be intent of finding out more of our plans. I looked up through the canopy of leaves above me. I had a sense there was someone watching us.

Sophia took the lead, on and on through the forest we walked. I kept my eyes sharp, constantly flitting from one tree to the next, searching for any sign of further attackers. There were none. I kept Sophia in my sight as I scaled a nearby tree, digging my fingertips deep into the bark and searched higher ground. From up here, I could see the end of the forest, we weren’t far, but more importantly, I could see the sky, the moon, the roof of Castle Blackmoor behind me. No matter where I trained my vision, there was no one around, we were alone.

I jumped down, landing silently on the dried leaves beneath my feet and sidled up to Sophia.

‘We’re alone.’ I said reassuringly.

‘Good, I don’t want any more surprise visits.’ She replied. I gave an agreeing nod. Though I knew we were alone, still my eyes were frantically scanning every tree, bush and shrub we passed. For another few minutes we wandered in silence, listening to the whistling of the wind in our ears. Though we were not speaking, the forest seemed alive with bugs, creatures and insects. I listened carefully, picking up the faint sound of ants in the trees, the clicking of their pincers and the sound of hundreds of tiny ants crawling around inside the dead bark. I peered through the gloom effortlessly. My eyes seemed to illuminate the darkness, it was brighter than humans would see it. Where they were blind in the dark, I found it welcoming. My eyes rested upon a flow a few yards ahead of Sophia who walked unperturbed by the darkness or the insects.

It was a white rose which caught my eye. Gleaming serenely in the centre of the rose, was a tiny firefly that had landed on it. We finally exit the border of the forest and now the last few trees that were spindly and spread out, became clear they were harbouring no enemies in their branches. I walked closely by Sophia’s side. She wore a silken dress that fell just past her knees and adorned a white pair of sandals. In her hair, Sophia had plucked a flower from the garden around the castle and had inserted it carefully above her left ear. Her chocolate-brown hair had recently faded in colour due to her powers, an extension of herself, morphing. Now, her hair was a cool blonde.

We walked steadily, well, steadily for supernaturally advanced in every possible way, to the concrete maze that was Italy. As the trees and shrubs became stone and the bushes were replaced with houses and shops, I tensed slightly, an unsettling feeling creeping up my chest and settling as a lump in the bottom of my throat. The houses passed on both sides as we entered the poor district. Soon we came across a familiar sight: the entrance to the mystical waters of the placed we knew only as Agartha. Though we had no idea what secrets we felt sure it held, one thing we could agree on was the fact if ever I were to become immune to the sunlight, it would happen in Agartha. The entrance, I felt sure was a secret known only by myself and Sophia, looked the same as any other stone wall in Italy, but as I passed, I counted the stones. On the twelfth, I stopped and counted three down. On this third rock I knelt down and pressed my face close, almost as if I were sniffing at the stone. I closed my eyes, allowing my mind to fill with sincerity. Only when I was brim full with these thoughts did I open my mouth.

‘I wish to enter.’ I spoke softly. Only those who knew of Agartha could speak the words with such a tone that it was completely clear the speaker knew of the place and wished to enter. It was a way of making sure those who on the off chance said the exact same thing in this correct place did not enter.

We waited in silence, the tension and impatience threatening to consume me. Then, as it always did, the entrance became visible. The seven foot high wall became a doorway, it spanned four feet across and resembled that of an old cave’s entrance with a wooden frame, but inlaid into this frame were symbols that were clearly not known to humans. The stone wall seemed to melt away as if it were just an illusion, covering the doorway like a giant sheet.

As the entrance began to glow a dim blue, we crossed the threshold quickly and the entrance slunk back to its stone form once more behind us, submerging us in a deep blue haze that seem to hang in the air like smoke. The walls were mossy and made of what looked like compacted mud but the smell had a sweet edge to it, nothing like you’d expect to find in a cave with moss and overhanging flowers. As we walked on, the bluish haze bean to dissipate slightly and the narrow walkway began to stretch open until we could both walk comfortably side by side. The walkway now opened up into a cavernous room that was easily three hundred feet wide. As we approached the end of the walkway, a slight hum rang in the air and we overlooked the lake than ran through rock. We felt sure this was not just a room for a bright light was just visible at the end where the lake rounded a corner and disappeared from sight. The lake was perfectly still and the surface resembled a mirror, reflecting the bluish haze that seemed to be coming from the crystals that had sprouted and clung to the rocks.

We stood on a ledge overlooking the lake. As we turned to the right, an ancient-looking rope hung off the ledge and down to the lake. We walked over to it and stood on the large piece of wood that allow people to safely descend to the lakeside. We stood on the ominous-looking lift and I used the rope to allow us to descend. Once we hit the bottom we stepped off and strode over the lake. Like it had done before, the rock seemed to mould itself to the contours of our feet as we walked though it felt safe and sturdy. As we reached the lake side in the eerie bluish haze, we stopped and looked at each other.

‘So where do we go now?’ She asked me. Though her voice should have echoed, the haze around us seem to prevent it from doing so. I looked carefully at the reflective water that was deathly still. In the distance I noticed the end of this cave. I’d never once set foot outside the confines of the cave and I was reluctant to do so now. In truth, I did not know what it was that brought me here, I had no plan or even any idea of what we were supposed to do once we got here. I’d almost felt like we were going here purely because for some reason I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it, like our journey was destined to end before we reached our destination.

I had no plan, no clue what I was doing here, even now I sat as I sat and thought about it, I wasn’t even sure what I wanted was even possible, let alone whether I was in the right place for doing it. I thought to myself all the while staring at the mirrored surface of the lake. I decided to admit defeat, it just wasn’t possible though I felt so close.

‘I don’t know where we go, I don’t even know where we are now forget where we’re going. Maybe we should just leave, I doubt it’s even possible to achieve immunity from the sun, I guess I just wanted to be a better leader, one who could protect his people. It looks like I failed.’ I said numbly. Sophia looked at me with evident pity but I did not look back, I just stared at my reflection somewhat moodily.

‘You want to protect your people, do have an advantage over Deus and his army?’ Sophia asked.

‘Of course I do but he’s always one step ahead of everything I do.’ I said maybe a bit too harshly. She ignored my building temper.

‘Why don’t we launch a full-scale attack on the Vatican?’ She asked as casually as if she had just suggested we go for an evening stroll in the town. I made some sort of strangled coughing noise, it was the most I could do; speaking was just not possible in that moment.

‘What?’ I finally managed to choke out after I had just swallowed down my shock.

‘Well, it would catch them off guard, which means we can probably dispatch a good amount of them before they’ve even realised we’re attacking.’

I thought for a second.

‘I guess that’s true but what would we gain from that? There will always be more of them to step in their place.’ This was a very valid point I felt.

‘Ok, so we launch an assault and whilst your army is fighting, we slip inside, we could use that secret passage underneath the Vatican that your Venice clan have been using as an underground blood extraction system for years.’ The idea of it all was now becoming not only a good thought, but a great one, I imagined the amount of information we could procure, the enemy’s plans flung wide open. I began to smile.

We made our way to the ancient lift to ascend once more to the city above, we had a war to wage.

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