by Julien regg
Fire raged in the streets all around us as my party of hunters walked. Both Kennedy and Franklin had joined us on this daytime raid on the rogues, and the streets of the city were raging with fire as we burned them out. Those of us who could not burn their sleeping forms dragged them out into the deadly rays of the hateful sun. Drones fell dead all around them, and I was in wonder at the curiously crude bond they shared with their rogue masters.
I had no time to ponder the trappings of rogue bonds and dying drones on that cursed day. There were humans witnessing the spectacle of the undead deaths in the streets of the city. Police and firefighters were everywhere, but the fires could not be contained. They had no idea what was causing all of the carnage just yet, for we were swift and stealthy still. Sometime soon someone would become wise to us however, and our secrets would be discovered. I despised this petty trickery, but there was no other way. Sloan Farr had reduced our magic to nothing but tricks with his stupidity and hiding. Making me hunt him like a dog was what had caused this spectacle, and he would pay for it with his life.
Jessup, Bashire, Kennedy, Franklin and I snatched the evil men in the back allies and streets where no one was watching and fed as quickly and quietly as possible. Of course our victims were reduced to ashes as soon as they were drained of blood. Leaving a trail of bodies for authorities to discover and study was not something I wanted no matter how upset Bashire became over his victims being incinerated before he'd had the chance to let go of their lifeless corpses.
There were seven legitimate vampire houses in the city, and by week's end each of them would belong to my bloodline. By the next sunrise, every vampire on the grounds of House Maxwell - Doran would be of the Maxwell Bloodline. It wasn't necessary for me to convert them all. Any vampire with my blood in his veins could make the conversion. This was how my bloodline would spread. Each member of my bloodline would convert the other vampires, and I knew that I would have to carefully select rogues that would become members of my bloodline as well. For the time being, however, all rogues that I encountered would burn.
As the sun began to set my party made its way back to the estate. We were careful to make sure that we were not followed. Watchers, Vampire Slayers and Forsaken formed a circle around us as we moved to make sure that no one who had followed us lived to reach us if they dared. Once I was safely in the main house, I sent Derrick, Andelynne and Brock to House Kahn to summon Charles Kahn to House Maxwell - Doran. The fate of House Kahn had been decided. I hadn't decided it until I'd returned home that very evening, but the conversion of House Kahn would be the beginning of the turning of the vampire houses in the city. If Charles Kahn did not consent to joining my bloodline, then his house status would not be granted, he would be killed, and I would have his house burned.
"Don't you think you're going a bit far?" demanded Bashire when he learned the full scope of my plans for House Kahn.
"No," I said flatly. "If this is the way that things are going to go then I see no reason to wait it out, Bashire. It has to start somewhere. Let it begin with Kahn."
"So you'll rule them all by force?" he asked, staring at me hard.
"As if the Vampire/Forsaken Council didn't rule by force!" I spat. "I read those books of laws, Bashire. Don't stand there and look at me like that. I know what the penalties for every broken law were as well as how easy it has always been to break one of them. This may be different but not by much."
"You said that you would bring peace," he reminded me.
"The road to peace is never easy, Bashire," I said. "You yourself told me that. The Kahns were rogues, Bashire. You know that if I don't grant them house status they will come for me in time. If I don't grant them house status, I will have to kill them any way. If I do, then they will have to join my blood line in the long run."
"But you're going to threaten him?" he stormed. "Upon meeting you for the first time, he's going to walk in here to threats from the most powerful force he'll ever know? Eric, you have to know that he will fear you more than he's ever feared anything in his life. You can't believe that this is the way to go."
"Bashire," I sighed, putting my hand to my forehead. "This is a war. You knew it was coming, and you knew it wouldn't be easy. Many more are going to die. The Kahns won't be the first to be put to the choice. They will be the first of thousands. You know that countless legitimates will fall because they will refuse. Why not let the one house that is waiting for status be the first to choose?"
"And what of Daniel?" he asked, switching gears entirely. "You've had him shacked up with the Roark triplets since the estate was finished, and you haven't even spoken to him since we moved in. The boy still demands to see you and Franklin every day, Eric. You have to talk to him."
I had to admit that he had me there. My little brother was still weighing heavily on my mind. How could the boy not believe that we were vampires? He'd witnessed countless miracles when House Doran was attacked. He'd seen Forsaken morph, vampires had fed virtually in front of him, and countless had been killed. Our parents had all but been murdered in front of him by vampire rogues. Still he did not believe.
I still had no idea what I was going to do to convince him that we were real and not send him into a catatonic frenzy in the process. Outside of out right turning him, I wasn't sure that I could do anything. Bonding him was out of the question. I couldn't turn him into a drone, because he wouldn't survive once the other vampires learned what had happened to him. They would kill him on principle. I had to figure out something, and I had to do it fast.
"Daniel will have to wait a bit longer," I sighed again. "I still don't know what to say to him. He has too many questions to answer at this point. I don't know how to answer them without scaring him."
"You have to talk to him, Eric," he pressed. "The boy is demanding to come to the main house. This isn't House Doran."
"I know that," I snapped and was instantly sorry when he flinched at my tone. "Look, I'm sorry. I'm just tired."
"Then stop this madness, Eric," he breathed, coming all the way into the room and stopping in front of my desk. "Send Charles Kahn away when he gets here. Don't force him to choose. Rest tonight and start this. . . madness tomorrow night."
I stared at him for a few seconds, weighing what he'd said. Part of me was screaming that he was right. What he was saying was completely valid and true. I really didn't want to be a king among the immortals. All I wanted was to survive in a sea of treacherous beings. The reality of the situation held the other side of me. That side of me was screaming that it would happen whether I wanted it to or not. The rogues would search me out and try to kill me for my blood. Sloan Farr would try to kill me for more reasons than just my blood, and I'd have to unite the vampires and the Forsaken to fight this war. It didn't matter what I wanted. It didn't matter what Bashire wanted. It didn't matter what Daniel believed or what he was comfortable with hearing or seeing. This would happen no matter what. I was to be king.
"Father Eric," said Brock's voice from the door of the study, interrupting out discussion. "Charles Kahn, Dalyn Peirce and Marshal Imodan of House Kahn to see you."
"Please show them in," I said. "Bashire, please have a seat, and I'd like for Derrick and Andelynne to join us as well as you, Brock."
Charles Kahn was a tall thin vampire with very pale skin and long blond hair that he kept in a plated braid down his back that ended at his waste. His eyes were the color of emeralds, and they held a knowledge that spoke of years of violence. He was dressed in a dark blue blazer, white turtle neck and dark blue dress pants. His patent leather black shoes were polished to a shine.
He scrutinized me with a measuring gaze, and his thoughts told me that he was assessing his chances for surviving this meeting. He didn't expect to live through this meeting. I wondered just what had been said to him about me. I was sure he'd heard about all of the dead rogues in the city, and I knew that he had to know that I was responsible for the massacre. Did he really believe that I would summon him to my own estate to slaughter him? Would I demand that he bring one of his fledglings and a drone along if I was going to kill them all?
Dalyn Peirce was Charles Kahn's very first fledgling, sired before Charles had bonded his first drone. It was a broken rule, but I could over look it. I'd broken that very rule when I'd turned Bashire, but then I'd broken a number of rules when I'd turned Bashire. The Vampire Dalyn was quite wonderful to behold. He was at least six feet tall with long dark hair that would rival the blackest midnight sky. He wore it loose, and it fell in waves over his shoulders. His eyes were pools of harnessed oceans so blue that they rivaled the clearest skies. They watched me very intently. His mind told me that he wasn't exactly afraid of me, but he wasn't particularly comfortable with his situation either.
Marshal Imodan, the drone, was quite impressive in that he was completely ordinary. He wasn't a handsome man. I'd say he was no more than plain to look at with dull brown hair and eyes. His facial features were nothing special either. There was nothing out of the ordinary about him at all. He was the type of man that just wouldn't stand out at all. He wasn't ugly or good looking. No feature on his body would stand out more than any other, and that made him the perfect person to go unnoticed.
His thoughts were like a beacon. He plainly feared me, and he wanted to be anywhere but on my estate. He believed that the fate of everyone in House Kahn was death and that I was the their judge and jury. He believed that this was to be the trial by fire. They had, in fact heard all about the deaths in the city, but they hadn't heard the real truth behind those deaths. What they had heard were utter distortions of the truth told to rogues from frazzled minds of drones who'd heard insane tails from others who had barely escaped the slaughter at the hands of my party.
"Father Eric," said Charles once Andelynne, Derrick and Brock were all seated in the room along with Bashire. "Thank you for seeing us tonight."
"Thank you for coming, Master Charles," I replied, standing and taking his thin hand. "Please, sit."
I waited for the three of them to sit before looking to Brock for a report. For a moment, Brock merely looked back at me blankly, and I hoped that he hadn't forgotten what he was required to say in this instance. We'd gone over it at least a dozen times at his insistence. After all, he'd been the one to demand that all of this formality be played out whenever a Sire of a house was in attendance.
"This is Charles Kahn, sired by a rogue vampire named Farren Dahl fifty some odd years ago," said Brock. "He has three fledgling vampires named Dalyn Peirce, who is seated to his right, Abraham Peirce and Daxton Seavor, who has two fledglings of his own. Those fledglings are named Mark Flemming and Guy Noll. There are three drones in their house. Marshal Imodan is here tonight, seated to the left of Charles Kahn, Nathanial Mepps and Robert Lord are the other two.
"They seek house status," he went on. "The council was about to decide on this matter before the attack on your bloodline began, Father Eric."
"Thank you, Brock," I said. "I trust that all of the records that survived the council on House Kahn are here for me to review should I decide to look them over?"
"They are," he replied formally with a nod.
"Very good," I said once again inwardly sighing at the ridiculousness of all of this formality. "I don't believe that I need to see any of the records pertaining to House Kahn. I have a simple request for Charles Kahn."
"What kind of request?" asked Charles. "If I may ask, Father Eric."
"Your line was not sired by a legitimate vampire," I stated plainly. "That means that under the new vampire laws I can not grant you house status. However, there is a way to change that."
"How?" he asked with wide eyes. His mind was screaming one thought over and over again. He thought that I was going to kill him.
"You can join my bloodline," I replied simply. "My bloodline is different than any of the other four, and I assure you that if you join us, you will not only be granted house status, you will be a part of something bigger than you ever dreamed."
"You want us to join this war," he said slowly, eying me.
"Well I won't lie to you," I said. "Joining my bloodline will make you part of the war, but if you don't join my bloodline you will have become part of the war any way. You will simply be on the other side of it. Now I don't intend to threaten you, but that's the simple truth. You are an intelligent vampire, Charles, and I know that you value your survival as well as the survival of your coven. It is in your best interest to join my bloodline and fight at my side."
He was silent for a few minutes, and it was hard for me to pull out his thoughts from the sea of the three of them. They were all thinking at the same time, and I could only pick out one image at a time. Each of them were thinking of a way out, but it was pointless. There was no way off of the estate for any of them if they didn't choose the correct path this night. If Charles did not choose to be converted to my bloodline, he and his fledgling and drone would die on the grounds. His house would be burned before the sun rose. Those were the facts, and there was no escape. He had to know it just as the others had to know it.
"That isn't really a choice," he said stiffly.
"I apologize for that," I said sincerely. "I really do, but this is a war, Charles. If there was another way, I would just grant you house status and be done with it. There isn't another way, and we both know that. This war will go on no matter what either of us want. You are either with me or you are against me. With me, you live. Against me, you die. It's as simple as that."
"And I suppose that I am required to make my choice right now," he said flatly.
"You are," I replied, folding my hands on the desk in front of me. I was aware that Bashire was eyeing me hard from across the room, but it was too late to back out now. I had to go through with this. To back out would make me look soft, and I couldn't have that.
"Well then, of course, I choose to live," he said slowly. "What is it that I have to do to become part of your bloodline?"
"A blood exchange," I said simply. "Brock, alert Pete that we'll be needing three from the cells downstairs, please."
"Yes, Father Eric," he replied, rising from his seat and leaving to carry out my order.
I got up out of my chair and walked around my desk to stand in front of the chair that Charles was seated in. He was seated in the middle chair in front of the desk, and he looked up at me with weary eyes. I tried to convey as much compassion and good will with my eyes as I looked at him as I could, but I knew that I wasn't doing a superb job of it. His mind told me that he was terrified of me still. I knew that once the blood transfer was complete he would lose all of his fear of me however.
"You've no need to fear me, Charles," I said softly. "I won't kill you. You will be one of my own after this night, and then you will never die. The sun won't even kill you after tonight."
"So you are 'The One'?" he asked, looking up at me with wonder.
"I am," I replied. "I am a direct human descendant of Tyron Par, the perfect vampire."
"Day walker," whispered Dalyn beside us.
"Be careful where you say that," I snapped, turning to face him and making him flinch. "If the wrong ears hear you say that, you could be killed. Once this night is over, your blood will be almost as valuable to the vampires out there as mine is. You won't want them hunting you. You'll want to hunt them. Believe me."
"Make me one of yours," said Charles, getting to his feet in front of me. "I want to be part of your bloodline, Father Eric. I want to stand beside you in your fight."
Just like that, his thoughts changed just like his words. Gone were his fears and hopes of escape. Every thought of malice and self preservation had evaporated and been replaced with protecting me and aiding me in my quest to rid the world of every rogue vampire. I opened my arms and let him step into my deadly embrace. He moaned as my fangs sank into the flesh of his neck, and a torrent of spicy memory infested blood washed over my pallet.
My mind reeled as I saw the plots and schemes that his house had been involved in over the years. Countless legitimate vampires had lost their lives so that this vampire could live. He himself had been privy to plots against the council with so many different rogues on countless occasions, and he'd conspired to gain house status. How did he ever hope to keep this secret from me, knowing that a blood transfer had to take place in order to join my bloodline?
My mind snapped into his before I was even conscious of what I was doing. A crude form of what I had done to bond Brock and Derrick was weaving inside of Charles's head as I slowly drew his blood. He wasn't even aware of what I was doing. No one could ever know what I was doing to him, or I would have so much to explain. I wasn't even sure of what it was that I was doing. How could I explain that I was bonding a vampire? It was impossible to make a drone out of a vampire! It couldn't be done. But I was doing it. This one wouldn't require my blood to survive. This drone would be unlike any that I'd ever created before.
As soon as the weave was set into place inside his mind, I pulled back from both his mind and his neck. He staggered a bit until I remembered to tighten my grip on him and guide his mouth to my own neck. He needed no instruction, and in seconds I felt his fangs pierce the flesh of my own neck. His bite was timid and weak from his blood loss, but he grew bolder. I had to use my mind control ability to slow him down for fear that he'd pull too hard and seriously drain me too far. It was far easier to control him with the weave already in place in his head, and I could feel him inside my own head much like I could feel both Brock and Derrick.
His body began to bulge and stretch even before he let go of me. Dalyn and Marshal were both on their feet in seconds as Charles pulled his fangs roughly out of my neck and began to wail from the pain of his conversion. I could feel an echo of that pain from the bond that I'd placed on him. I could also feel the fire in his heart, so I knew that he possessed the gift of combustion.
He threw himself backward and barely caught the chair. Unlike Franklin and the other's, his clothes did not rip completely from his body. By the time the blood finished remaking his body, they simply hung in tatters on him. His hair was completely white, and his eyes were the color of fire. The irises were ringed with black, and almost immediately the tell tale nimbus surrounded him. He was breathing hard, and he was glaring at me.
"I can't hear your thoughts," he said in an accusing tone. "Why?"
"I don't know," I lied. "The others can hear my thoughts, but that isn't a clear indication that every member of my bloodline will always be able to. You may simply be different. I can see from the nimbus around you that you can harness the fire in your heart. You'll need to learn to control it. Fast."
He regarded me with a thoughtful expression, and his thoughts registered in my mind as if they were my own. The weave of his bond made it that way, and I was happy for that. This vampire would never be able to betray me. For one thing, I'd know what he was going to do seconds after he thought of it. For another thing, he wouldn't be capable of thinking any sort of thought that would bring about anything close to mutiny.
"Am I expected to convert my own fledglings?" he asked after a brief silence.
"They are your fledglings," I reminded him. "I need to feed. You have been replenished by me, Charles. I am the low vampire right now."
As if on cue, Brock returned with three males from the cells, and I snapped out at them with my mind, forcing them into obedience immediately. I was in no mood for games that night. I planned to go back to House Kahn with Charles that night and perform the same weaves on his other two fledglings to make sure that the entire house was mine.
I took the first of the dark haired humans and wasted no time in sinking my fangs into his neck. Ignoring the torrent of human memories that spiced his blood, I delved into Dalyn's mind as Charles drew his blood, beginning his blood exchange. I was weaving his bond carefully, duplicating the same bond I'd placed in Charles's mind. I heard a moan escape Dalyn, and I wondered if he could actually feel me in his head, but I doubted it. I barely even registered the dead human falling at my feet. He was ashes before I'd even realized I'd embraced the fire inside of me. The bond was formed in Dalyn's mind before Charles had even pulled his fangs from his neck.
I stood back and watched as Dalyn drew blood from his sire to complete the conversion. This would be the first time that any of us would see the conversion take place from a second generation source of my bloodline, and we were all curious about what would happen. Until this moment, I had been the one to turn every member of the bloodline.
When Dalyn began to convulse with his change, and his body began to expand as his muscles bulged and expanded, I knew that there was nothing to worry about. His mind told me that he was in pain and he was scared, but I could also sense that the virus was working on him in just the right way. There was nothing to worry about. I'd known there wouldn't be. How else would my bloodline spread across the world if not this way? I couldn't have been expected to travel the world converting every vampire. Dalyn's conversion didn't last long. He was back on his feet in a matter of seconds, naked and surrounded by an orange nimbus that told us all that he could harness the fire inside his heart. He regarded me with a look of wonder for a brief moment before turning his gaze on his sire. It seemed that was also the exact moment that he noticed that he was naked. He had no shame, however. There was nothing for him to be embarrassed about. Dalyn was a remarkable vampire in every detail.
"Brock," I said, turning to my drone. "I think it might be wise if we find something for Charles and Dalyn to wear."
"Yes, Father Eric," replied Brock with a slight bow of his head before leaving the room to carry out my request.
"May I?" asked Charles, looking hungrily at the two male humans huddled fearfully in the corner who were witnessing the event.
"Of course," I replied dismissively. This was what they were there for. I'd known that he'd have to feed after this.
Dalyn and Charles both fed from the two humans, and I was satisfied when they were both ashes on the floor at their feet. They'd prove that they could handle the fire gift, and their mental bonds told me that they weren't holding back anything. Without that little extra weave in their heads, I'd never have been able to trust them. Granting them house status and letting them live would have been a grave mistake. Brock returned with two sets of black clothing, and I winced when I saw that they were the clothes that the inmates in the cells below us wore, but there was nothing that could be done about it. Dalyn and Charles didn't seem to mind, so I didn't say anything about it. While the two of them got dressed, I sat at my desk and entered House Kahn in the Book of Vampire Records at house status. When I looked up from what I was writing, it was Dalyn's white ringed eyes that were looking at me.
"So we're yours now then?" he asked.
"My blood runs through your veins," I replied. "Soon my bloodline will be the predominant bloodline of all vampires in the world. House Kahn is the beginning of that."
"Will you give the others the same choice that you gave us?" asked Charles. There was no animosity in his voice. The bond told me that he was more amused than annoyed. Now that he was actually one of my bloodline, he was happy with his choice.
"Exactly the same choice," I replied. "I'm sure that not all of them will choose as you did. You'll find out. I can't go from house to house myself. That's why the Sire Vampires will be taking envoys from each of the houses to put the question to the Sire Vampires of the other houses all over the world. The blood will spread, and the war will continue until it is over."
"Will it ever be over?" asked Bashire, looking at me evenly.
"It will be as over as anything ever really can be," I told him slowly.
"So you'll be going back to House Kahn with us tonight?" asked Dalyn, distracting me from the staring match that I was having with Bashire over my last statement.
"Yes," I said. "I'll supervise the conversion of Abraham, Daxton, Mark and Guy and answer any other questions that the four of you have. Bashire and Brock will come with us."
Unless Bashire formed his own house, he would always be part of my envoy. Brock, as my first drone, would accompany me everywhere I went. Until the war was over, or until it was safely out of the streets of the city we lived in, Andelynne, Derrick, Kennedy and three more Forsaken would also accompany me everywhere I went as well. Dalyn and Charles were a bit uncomfortable with their presence as we traveled back to House Kahn, but at least they didn't have to ride in the same car.
The watchers reported in that there were no rogues or drones watching anywhere near the estate, so our group left the estate in three vehicles bound for House Kahn with plenty of night left to expose us to rogue activity. Tension in my car was high, and even I was a little worried about being so exposed. This had to be done, though. I just couldn't explain it to Brock or Bashire. I couldn't explain what I was doing to any of them. This had to remain a secret. I just wondered how many more out there would be like the vampires of House Kahn.
"You know that Kennedy and Jessup are turning Darian and Raffiki," stated Bashire as we drove down the deserted street.
"Yes," I replied, watching the dark buildings pass us by as we entered the city. "I ordered it. I can't turn everyone, Bashire. I don't have enough blood in my body for every vampire."
"So it's going to be just like the Kahns in every house then?" he asked, and I could feel his glare even though I wasn't facing him. "You're going to give them the choice of joining your bloodline or death?"
"Bashire, this is war," I said coolly, turning to face him. "What other choice is there? You know that if they don't join us, they will be rogue. What then? They'll join the rogues in hunting me, and then I'll have no other choice but to kill them. Why would I let them live if they chose not to join me when I gave them the option? Tell me."
"He's right, Bashire," said Brock. "It isn't easy to stomach, but he's right. If he doesn't kill them, then they'll try to kill him. He has to do it this way. Being soft will get him killed."
"And it isn't going to get any easier," I mumbled as we pulled up to House Kahn.
"...and his death shall usher in the new covenant of the immortal world, crowning the King of The Immortals and He shall reign by fire and lone justice..."
From "The Book of Vampire Prophecy"
House Kahn was really a far cry from the rest of the legitimate vampire houses in the world. The three stories of dark red brick weren't unlike other vampire houses, and the windows were barred for security, but the size of the house, and its location, screamed inadequacy. I had thought to simply move the vampires and drones to House Maxwell - Doran, but that wasn't going to happen. For one thing, there really wasn't room for more vampires. Drones could have fit in anywhere on the estate, but vampires required food. That would mean more human livestock. The problem there was that crime was down in the city, and as the Sire Vampire of the house, I couldn't condone the taking of innocent blood.
"That went much better than I expected," said Bashire, looking out at the house through the car window. He wasn't happy about the way I had decided to bring the vampire world under my blood line. I was going to have to figure out a way to make him and Brock both understand why I'd made the decisions that I had.
"You're sure you can trust them?" asked Brock from the front seat of the car.
"I have no doubt," I replied. "Charles Kahn will never betray me. As for his fledglings I can't say that I like them, but I know that I can trust them."
"How do you know?" asked Bashire, finally turning to look at me.
"I can hear his thoughts just as well as you can, Bashire," I replied. "You know what he's thinking."
We were all silent for a few minutes after that statement. I was starting to wonder if I could tell them about the strange mind trap that I'd placed on the entire coven that was House Kahn. Would they understand? Would they agree with my decision if they did understand? There was only one way to find out, but I wasn't ready to sit and explain myself to either of them about that particular decision. After all, I didn't even understand how I'd come up with the idea to do it. With Charles it had just happened before I even gave it thought.
"What makes you so sure that he won't decide to cross you at a later date?" asked Bashire.
"We'll deal with that if, and when, it happens," I replied evenly.
No, I couldn't tell them. Bashire would never understand. I wasn't even sure that I could figure out how to make him understand the other plans I'd made. He would just have to wait for a while, though. Too many things were happening for me to watch carefully without having to explain they reasons behind everything I did or said.
As soon as we walked into the house, I could tell that something was wrong. Without thinking, I let my mind contact all of the others in the house, but all I got was confusion, fear and anger. I looked at Brock and he took off down the hall. When I got to the great room, I found Daren, Raffiki and Franklin standing in the center of the room with Daniel glaring at them hatefully.
"He knows," Franklin said simply.
"What happened?" I asked. I didn't need anyone to tell me what he knew. There was only one thing that Franklin could be referring to, and all I needed to know was how and why.
Franklin and Raffiki were both looking at me with fear in their eyes. They both knew that I wouldn't harm them, so I couldn't understand why they would be so fearful. I waited for one of them to answer my question, but from the tangled thoughts that were running though both of their heads, I didn't know if I was going to even get an answer.
"He walked into Franklin's room while..."
"I was feeding," said Franklin, cutting Raffiki off. "He saw everything. Eric, I didn't hear him."
"You didn't hear his thoughts?" I asked.
"When I feed, I only hear the blood," he said, looking at me with pleading eyes. I wondered just what he thought I was going to do to him.
"So you're all vampires," said Daniel hatefully, turning his hellish gaze on me. "All of you?"
"Not all of us," I replied after a moment of silence. My mind was racing, and I couldn't think of the right words to say to him. His mind told me that he only understood one side of things. He understood that we killed people.
"I didn't listen," Daniel said slowly. He was looking from me to Franklin and back again. His mind was a sea of images and tormented thoughts. "You tried to tell me the night that Mom and Dad were killed. I just wouldn't listen."
"I've been trying to think of the right way to make you understand," I said, coming completely into the room. "I didn't intend for you to witness any of us feeding."
"You killed that man," he said, glaring at Franklin again. In his mind was the image of Franklin feeding from a man. I could actually feel the fear that he'd experienced when he'd first walked in on Franklin and his victim. I wanted so badly to make him understand. I just didn't know how.
"Yes, he did," I said slowly. "You know what a vampire is, Daniel. You've read all of the stories and legends."
"So if I drive a wooden stake through your heart, you'll die?" he spat.
"No," I replied honestly. "Stakes, crosses, holy water and garlic are only things that work in stories."
"The sun," he said, smiling. I could hear his thoughts as plain as if they were my own. He hated us now, and he wanted to kill us.
"I'm afraid the sun won't do much to any of the vampires in this house," I replied. "Daniel, you have to come to terms with this somehow. You have to understand that none of us will hurt you."
"It was vampires that killed Mom and Dad," he said, looking from me to Franklin and back. "They killed our parents."
"Yes," I replied. "And we've been killing them."
"You've been killing your own kind?" he said incredulously. "Isn't that a death sentence for any vampire?"
"Daniel, this isn't a Bram Stoker novel or a tale told by Anne Rice," I sighed. "The reality is much different than fiction."
"Andelynne and Piper," he said.
"What about them?" I asked.
"Are they vampires, too?"
"No they are not," I replied. "There are no women vampires."
"Why not?" he demanded.
"Because the virus that makes us what we are is fatal to females," I said. "Look, I understand that you need to know everything, but doing it this way isn't going to get us anywhere."
"I don't need to know anything," he snapped. "I don't want to know about you. I want away from you."
"You can't leave the grounds," I said calmly. "It isn't safe."
"It isn't safe in here, either," he said.
"Daniel, no one on this estate will harm you in any way," I said quickly. "And no one will get in from outside to hurt you, either."
"Werewolves," he whispered. "I saw them that night. I saw werewolves."
"You saw Forsaken," I corrected him. "Brock is Forsaken. He and..."
"You're a werewolf?" demanded Daniel, turning his shocked eyes to Brock.
Pure terror was what I got from his mind at that point. I was so sure that he would understand somehow. How could he have lived his entire life on the estate of a vampire without knowing the truth? But then I hadn't known the truth until my birthday, either. I had to find a way to make him understand that we wouldn't hurt him. I just didn't know how to do it.
I could tell from Brock's thoughts that he had no idea what to say to Daniel, either. He was staring at him with wide eyes. Daniel just looked back at him a defiant stare that I'd seen so many times growing up. The kid wasn't going to give in until he got the answers he wanted. I was a little worried about his fear of us, though. After all of his fantasy games and keen interest in vampire fiction, I would never have believed that learning that vampires were a reality would scare him so much.
Before I even realized what I was doing, my mind lashed out at him. I could see the tangled web that I was spinning inside his head, and I hated myself for it. I really had to think, and I couldn't do that with him hurling questions at everyone. It wasn't a permanent mind trap. It would only last for a day at the most. I was careful even though I wasn't sure what it was that I was trying to accomplish.
"Daniel, its late, and you really should be in bed," I told him softly. Franklin and Bashire were staring at me closely, and I knew that both of them understood what I'd done. I could hear the mixture of relief and horror in Franklin's thoughts. Bashire's I left alone. He was already upset with me, and I didn't want to know if what I had done made him more upset.
"Yes," said Daniel, looking confused. "I'm really tired. I'll talk to you in the morning."
He passed only inches by me as he left the room. No one said a word as he walked out, and a few minutes later I could hear his feet on the stares. Compulsion was what I had spun in his mind. Even though the thought that I had used it on my little brother sickened me, I filed the information on how to weave the web away in my own mind. I would no doubt use it again some day.
"What did you do to him?" Bashire demanded. His eyes told me how upset he was with me. I didn't even have to look into his thoughts.
"I compelled him," I replied evenly, returning his gaze with a blank one of my own. "I need to think, and I can't do that with him so upset. It won't last long, and he won't even understand what was done to him when it wears off. He'll remember everything about this conversation, and we will discuss it after we've all had some sleep."
"This is lunacy!" Bashire fumed. "How could you do this to your own brother?"
"Bashire, there is much that you and I seem to disagree on," I replied. "I don't like the fact that you are upset over this, but I assure you that if I could have figured out another way I wouldn't have done this. Daniel is unharmed and there won't be any long term effects caused by what I did. I'm sorry if this seems cold, but if you can't see that what I did was necessary, then you're just going to have to be upset."
"Are you going to do that to him again when he wakes up?" asked Franklin. There was no malice in his tone and his thoughts were only sad. He did understand why I had done it, but he was no happier about it than I was.
"No," I said. "We're going to sit him down tomorrow evening and talk to him about this. We'll find a way to make him understand this."
"You can't force him to accept it," said Bashire. "What horror will you visit upon him if he doesn't accept any of this?"
"Bashire, I'm not going to argue with you about this," I stated flatly. "I've told you that he will be fine when he wakes up. That's the end of it. If he doesn't accept any of this, then I suppose we'll have to send him away."
"We can't send him away," said Franklin. "He'll die without blood, Eric."
"He'll die if he tries to kill one of us," I replied. "Can any of you honestly tell me that you wouldn't retaliate out of instinct if Daniel tried to harm you?"
Everyone just stared at me with stone faces. I could hear the mass of uncertainty in all of their thoughts. The truth of the matter was that if Daniel refused to accept us he would die. The fact chilled me more than my vampire blood ever had, but it was something that couldn't be avoided. He was too young to turn, and would be for another year, so there was no other alternative. Sure, I could place a more permanent mind trap in his head, but I didn't really want to do that. I didn't want to force him to accept us. I wanted him to accept us on his own.
I left them after that. I couldn't bare to see them look at me like that any longer. I know that Bashire never came to bed that morning. I have no idea where he slept. He was awake when I came down the stairs the following evening, and he completely ignored me. I knew that we were headed for huge problems very soon if I didn't explain things to him.
Daniel was still sleeping. The web in his mind let me know exactly what he was feeling. The entire time he slept was dreamless, and his thoughts were completely empty. I was about to sit down to discuss the war with Brock when that awareness in my head that was Daniel suddenly disappeared. I didn't really know for sure, but I didn't think that it was simply because he woke up. Something was wrong.
It was then that my nose picked up that familiar scent. It was a scent that I'd been hunting the streets for since I'd moved to the new estate. Sloan was in the house. I could hear the hiss that escaped me, and as the others turned to look at me I bolted from the room. The scent got stronger as I got closer to the stairs. Suddenly I knew what was happening. Daniel hadn't just woke up, he was dying. Sloan Farr was killing my brother.
I embraced the fire inside before I even thought to levitate to the second floor. I was in Daniel's room in seconds, and I nearly exploded with rage and fear when I saw Franklin holding Daniel's lifeless body in his arms. He'd bitten his own wrist and was holding it to Daniel's lips. I could hear Daniel's faint heartbeat, and I knew that he was on the brink of death. I couldn't understand how Sloan had gotten into the house without anyone knowing.
Franklin's mind was an ocean of misery as he tried to save our little brother. But would this save him? If it worked, would Daniel thank him for saving him? Would he hate him for condemning him to a life as something he believed he hated? If ever there was a time when I needed a vision of the future it was now. If only I had learned to invoke them at will.
"Drink," he pleaded. "Please, Danny, drink!"
"My God," said Bashire from behind me, and I was aware that Brock and Derrick were standing there, too. Raffiki and Darian were coming as well as Kennedy and Jessup.
"He has to drink," moaned Franklin just as Daniel opened his mouth to receive the blood.
A chill went through me as I watched my younger brother drink from my older brother. I knew what would probably happen. No vampire had ever tried to save another's victim before. Daniel could die. He could be turned. If he was turned, then he would be another broken law. I saw the life trying to leave his body, and I could hear his confused thoughts. His mind told me that he could feel the blood flowing into him. He was turning.
"That's it, Danny," Franklin was saying. "Drink and live."
"What have you done?" gasped Raffiki from behind me.
"Sloan Farr," I hissed, spinning around to face the others. "He tried to kill Daniel."
"He was standing over him when I came in to check," said Franklin through bloodless tears. "He tried to drain him dry."
I shoved my way through the small crowd that had gathered at the door to Daniel's room and literally flew to the front doors of the house. I could hear the calls of the others, telling me that I couldn't go after Sloan alone, but I was beyond rage at that moment. Nothing would stop me from hunting him now. His scent was still strong, and I knew that I could track it.
There were rogues in the city still, and the sun was not shining to keep them asleep now. I was beyond caring, however. In the mood I was in I actually hoped that rogues would show themselves and give me a reason to kill them all. A voice in the back of my mind kept screaming at me that my plan was suicide, but I shoved it aside and levitated myself over the gates and into the street.
I can't narrate all of my voyage into the city, because all I truly remember is that I followed that cursed scent of a vampire that had tried to kill one more of my family. That vampire deserved a fate worse than death and I intended to hand him into the arms of such a fate if I could only find him. That was the thought that ran through my head as if it were on a loop: Kill Sloan Farr.
I was oblivious to the humans in the streets. What a spectacle I must have been, walking through the center of the street. I paid no attention to cars or people, but with the fire from my heart embraced I was sure that the tell tale orange nimbus had surrounded me. Could mortal eyes see that? I have no answer for that question still. All I know is that everyone surely stopped to stare as I walked among them.
The secret of our existence was out very shortly after I left the estate however. As soon as I started to notice mortals I found the immortals masquerading in their numbers. They wasted no time in coming for me. I actually laughed cruelly every time one dared to unmask himself to take me. With a twist of my fingers at my sides, each of the rogue would be assassins became ash in seconds. The fire burned so fierce that nothing was left of them when it was done, not even ash.
On and on this went as I followed the scent of Sloan through the streets of the city that wasn't sleeping. Rogues died all along my route, and humans witnessed the spectacle. Making matters worse, I felt the thirst well up inside me. It took nothing for me to scan the hearts and minds of the mortals along my path and find the killers, thieves and rapists. Crime may have been down in the city, but a man can not change his heart. I plucked three at random to quench that hateful thirst inside as I continued along the path to my nemesis. Humans screamed and ran as they watched me feed. There were only a few left to witness the victim become ash as I walked away from each of the three lifeless corpses.
Laws were being broken right and left, and I knew, on some level, that I would have to answer for that. Humans were never supposed to know about us, but I couldn't keep the secret safe with the rage that was pounding inside my quickened vampire heart. All I could see in my head was that horrible sight of my older brother begging my younger brother to drink and live. Sloan was going to die, and I wouldn't rest until I found him.
I could hear the sirens of the fire and rescue vehicles that seemed to trail after me, but there were no fires for them to put out, and there were no victims for them to save. All of the vampires I encountered were nothing but smoky ash, and my three victims were pretty much the same. Then there were police everywhere, but I paid them no mind.
"What do you think you're doing?" demanded Bashire who was suddenly walking beside me. I turned to him and saw that Jessup was behind us. I couldn't believe that I'd let them get that close without hearing them.
"I'm going to kill Sloan Farr," I said simply.
"Eric, everyone is watching," said Jessup. "There are police everywhere. What are you doing?"
"The world will just have to deal with us now, Jessup," I said dismissively. "I don't really care."
I was well aware of the fact that I was being irrational, but all I could really focus on was finding and killing Sloan. The world really would have to deal with us now. There was no going back. We'd been exposed, and it was my own fault. A part of me was horrified by that, but it was only a small part of me. We'd known that with this war going on we'd never remain a secret. I admit that this was not the way that I'd imagined we'd be discovered, but as I already said, there was no going back now. Sloan had to die.
"Did you even consider the possibility that Sloan may be luring you into a trap?" Bashire demanded.
"I've thought of that, Bashire," I snapped. "But he will die tonight."
We'd come to where the scent ended, and for a minute I was confused. It was a parking ramp. There were four levels above ground, and I wondered where Sloan would sleep in this place. Even the underground levels would be dangerous. He'd be discovered rather easily in this place. I couldn't believe that he'd nested here.
"So you've come for me," said Sloan's voice from somewhere inside the parking structure. "And you brought playmates."
I searched the entire range of my vision, but he was nowhere in sight. Hiding like a coward wouldn't save him. I'd find him, and when I did he would die. I was not leaving until he was dead. The fact that he sounded so arrogant and full of himself only enraged me further. I was going to enjoy killing him.
"Show yourself, coward," I hissed.
Sirens found us again, and I could hear the thoughts of my companions. The police were there. Humans were gathering around to witness what they thought were two mortals ready to fight. Evidently they were not among the humans that had witnessed the miracles I'd performed just blocks away from that very spot.
Then I heard a sound that really made me angry. A Forsaken had morphed and was inside that parking structure. I could hear him snarling. I scanned for his mind, but it was not one of them that I knew. My first thought was that Brock had come to take care of Sloan, but when I focused on the knot in my head that was Brock, I knew he was not there. He was on his way, but he wasn't there yet.
There were other Forsaken in that parking ramp, though. The one I could hear was not the only one. There were also scores of rogue vampires inside. The three of us had our hands full for sure. That thought had barely had time to surface in my mind before I became aware of six vampire slayers. Andelynne, Piper and Tashi were among them, so I knew that Derrick had arranged this. Was he there? My mind couldn't find him in the area, but I knew that he was coming as well. Perhaps he was traveling with Brock.
"Do you hear my pets?" cried Sloan in a mocking tone. "Do you think you've brought enough playmates for everyone here, Eric?"
"Face me, Sloan," I yelled back.
"Face you?" he laughed. "You're no better than Tryon Par, Eric. Madness such as what seized Tyron's mind may not have taken you, but you're mad all the same. What makes you think that I won't kill you the way I killed your ancestor?"
"There's no way you're going to do to me what you did to Tyron," I replied. "Come and fight, Sloan."
"Come and get me," he laughed. "If you think you can."
At that moment, he stepped forward, and I could see him on the third level of the parking ramp. I heard Bashire saying something, but I didn't pay attention. I levitated to the third level and snapped out at Sloan with my mind. I could feel him fighting against my mental intrusion, but he was no match for me now. I slammed a new mind trap in place and left him staggering.
The second I sank my fangs into his cursed skin I heard more Forsaken. They were coming for me. I was sure of that, but I didn't care. They would die soon enough. I had not released the fire. I was also aware that two of the Forsaken in the parking ramp were with me. I could hear them fighting with their own kind.
What I wasn't prepared for was the strange taste in Sloan's blood. I was also shocked to hear him laughing. My head began to swim and he stepped back from me. His laugh was mocking and cruel as he stared at me. In that second I knew what had happened. Sloan had drugged himself with the same concoction he'd used on Tyron so many years ago. I could feel it trying to consume me.
"Can you feel it yet, Eric?" Sloan laughed. "You were so easy. I'm disappointed in you, Eric Maxwell. I expected a fight."
I started to sink to my knees as the fire inside of me slowly disappeared, and then there were two rogues to hold me up by my arms. I could hear Sloan laughing as they held me up. I couldn't see his thoughts. Fighting the concoction was hard, and it took all of my concentration. The only thought that kept running through my head was that I wasn't going to die this way.
"Hold him tight," said Sloan. "Hold his head up. I want to see his eyes as the life leaves him."
He sounded so sure of himself, and I hated him even more. Perhaps it was the hatred that helped me win the battle against whatever he'd spiked his own blood with. Whatever it was, I fought it off until my mind was more clear than it had been at any time. I used that clarity to focus all of my mind on one goal. I wanted to propel Sloan away from me.
As he took his first steps toward me, eyes locked on mine, I pushed against him with every shred of my mind that I could harness. At first, nothing happened, and I thought that maybe I hadn't fought off the spiked blood. Then Sloan's eyes grew large and he was shoved half way across the parking ramp. He screamed as he sailed across the concrete floor.
The two rogues that held me had no time to act before I found the fire inside of me again. My mind screamed in celebration as I embraced that fire again. It wasn't until that moment that I realized that I had thought I'd never feel the glory of that fire again. I lashed out at both of the rogues with everything I could muster. I must have still been under more influence of that concoction that Sloan had used to spike his blood, because they didn't become ash as fast as they should have. I could hear them screaming in agony. I could feel them die.
I wasted no time watching as they slowly burned to death from the inside out. I put myself in front of a stunned Sloan and gripped his hair to lift him to his feet. I wanted to look him in the eye as I killed him. Everything that had happened since the night I opened my vampire eyes for the very first time had led me to this moment. Actually, everything that had happened since the night that Tryon Par had opened his vampire eyes for the first time had led to this moment. Sloan had killed my ancestor. He'd tried to kill me. He'd caused the turning of my younger brother. All of this was enough to stoke my hatred and feed the fire. Yet the events of that night fueled my hatred and anger higher, and I could feel my inner fire burning hotter.
I lashed out with my mind and gripped his consciousness in a vice as I shoved each of the memories of his crimes back into his mind. I wanted him to know that I was killing him for more than just his crimes against me. I wanted him to know exactly why he was being executed. I wanted him to know the fear and pain of his crimes. I wanted him to know the hatred that he'd spawned.
"Can you feel it?" I screamed at him. "Can you see everything you've done, Sloan? Can you?"
He shivered, and his eyes took on a glassy look that told me his mind was trying to shut down. I wouldn't allow that. I wanted him completely aware of what was going on around him. I used my mind to slam a special kind of mind trap into his head. Until that moment I didn't even know that I could form that type of mind trap, but as his hateful eyes went from dull to shocked, I knew that he understood exactly what I had done to him.
A moan escaped him and it slowly grew in pitch until it was a full vampire amplified wail. Humans in the area were probably in pain from the sound of that wail. His mind told me that he understood exactly what was happening to him. He saw the crimes he'd committed, and he knew that he was going to die. There were no more rogues for him to call out to. No one was going to step forward and spare him this fate. There was only me standing before him with the fire firmly in my grasp.
Surprising even myself, I slowly reached out to him with the fire. It was only enough to singe his clothing, but the wail grew more intense as his mind registered what was happening. He knew that I was going to burn him to death, and he knew that I wasn't going to burn him like I did my victims. No. I wanted him to feel every single agonizing moment of the blaze that would engulf him.
"That's right, Sloan," I said with an evil chuckle. "You're going to feel every shred of your body burning. No one is going to save you now, Sloan. You're going to die."
"I've still won," he laughed, cutting off his dangerously pitched wailing. "Your brother is dead."
"My brother is sleeping, Sloan," I said angrily. "When he wakes, he'll be another powerful vampire that you hate so much."
"They'll come for him," he laughed. "They'll come to pluck out his young vampire heart, Eric. What are you going to do then? Can you save him from every rogue in the world? Once this night is over everyone will know about you. Humans and undead alike will know that you walk the earth. They'll all hunt you like an animal in the woods."
"Oh, they'll come," I hissed at him as I tightened my grip on his hair. "I want them to come, Sloan. I want them to walk right into the fire that will be waiting for them."
"You're as crazy as Tyron Par," he said, wincing as I stepped the fire up a notch. "You'll die along with every one of your insane hybrids."
"But not before you," I spat. I refused to be baited by his insanity. He wanted to catch me unguarded, and I wouldn't allow that. I had him, and he was going to die. I sped up the burning again. This time I sought out his organs.
The sounds of Forsaken snarls and vampire's screaming could still be heard all over the parking ramp. In spite of the burning inside of him, Sloan smiled back at me. His mind told me that he fully believed that help was on its way. I, on the other hand, could really hear what was happening around me. Those sounds weren't coming toward us. They were moving away from us. That meant that my vampires and Forsaken were winning whatever battle was going on in the parking ramp.
"They're coming," he laughed, and a spark of relief showed in his hateful eyes.
"Don't be so sure," I said, cutting his hope in half. "Listen to them, Sloan. They aren't coming anywhere near us. They're getting further away. No one will come to save you. You are going to die."
And to make good on my claim, I wasted no more time. Sloan howled in agony as I let the fire engulf him internally. I could see the light in his eyes, and his mind told me he was dead before his skin began to turn to ash. Dead at my feet was the cursed Sloan Far.
* * *
The sun was coming up around us as the last of the parking ramp rogues died that night. They all knew that Sloan was dead, yet they continued to try to get to me. It seemed they didn't really understand that Jessup and Bashire were actually of my bloodline, because they never tried to attack them. They merely defended themselves. No amount of defense could stop the combustion that Jessup was using.
It wasn't until we got back to the estate that I learned that Raffiki and Franklin had joined the fight as well. All of the Forsaken on the estate had sustained injuries, but with a little blood from their vampires, all of those wounds healed quickly. We were all accounted for, and no one had died that night.
However, the world knew about us. The city we lived in knew at least, and it wouldn't take long for the story to spread. Sure, a lot of what these humans would tell the press would be chalked up to hysteria and fame seeking. It wouldn't be long before the story took hold, though. People had a way of believing the impossible no matter how far fetched it really was. For every person that had actually witnessed the fires and death that night, six more would swear that they had been there to witness it as well.
The government showed up a few days later while Daniel was still sleeping. They foolishly thought they could deal with us safely if they came while the sun was up. It wasn't an assault, but it wasn't a friendly visit, either. Twenty agents of the FBI showed up accompanied with two full SWAT teams. I didn't understand what they thought they were going to do to us. Did they honestly think that they could walk into a vampire house and pull the vampires out into the sun?
I had a four hour conversation with Agent Justin Fell, and it was clear that the government was very upset over the events that transpired on the night that Sloan lost his life. Restrictions were imposed on us, but I quickly showed Agent Fell that we would no longer be governed by a human government.
"We'll destroy you," he warned in what he thought was his best overbearing tone.
"Oh come now," I told him. "You've heard the stories of what happened that night. Do you honestly believe that you can threaten any of us? Agent Fell, there are millions of us on this planet, living among humans in ever city, state and country. Very soon those numbers will all be exactly like me. I don't think you, or any other member of the government, has any way of enforcing any restrictions or rules that humans think they can impose on immortals."
"This has got to stop, Mr. Maxwell," he said, slamming his hand down on the desk in front of him. He was standing in front of my desk while I sat calmly behind it. "Vampires were supposed to remain a secret. You can't go hunting your own kind and plucking victims off the street in plain view of everyone!"
"You didn't even know we existed until you were assigned to come here and bully me," I said. His mind had told me that much. "Let me tell you something else you don't know. Vampires are in the middle of a war, Agent Fell. This war won't end until every rogue vampire in the world is dead. I know that you've been told about the war between Vampires and Forsaken. I also know that you don't really believe the Forsaken really exist, though with everything you've witnessed and been told, I can't see why you'd be ignorant enough to believe it is a lie.
"That war was fought a very long time ago, and because of it, your government started a program that trained vampire slayers. What you don't know is that Forsaken and Vampires are fighting on the same side this time. Vampire slayers are on our side now. They are no longer governed by your government. This war will continue no matter what you or any of your superiors try to do to stop it."
"You are in no position..."
"No, you are in no position to make demands on my kind, Agent Fell," I said cutting him off. "As I said, this war will continue. There is nothing I can do to stop it now. More humans will witness these fights. This was only the first of many that are coming. There is nothing you can do to stop this."
"You will take caution in your tone, vampire," said another voice as another man walked into the room. "You are the one that is in no position to make demands or tell us what you will or will not accept."
"And who are you?" I asked him. He was in his mid fifties or so with graying dark hair that was cut precisely. He wore silver rimmed glasses that sat on the end of his nose, and his pin striped black suit was immaculate. He was just slightly overweight, but not enough to mar the squared features of his face.
"My name is Martin Worthy," he informed me. "I have been instructed to inform you that if you and your kind don't crawl back into the shadows, we will push you there."
I could feel the tension from him as well as from Brock, Derrick and Bashire. This man was sent to the estate simply because he wanted to be the one to cut the vampires down and put them in their place. His mind told me that he fully expected me to succumb to whatever he decided to impose on me. How wrong he was in thinking that.
"Mr. Worthy, you will remain silent until I am ready to talk to you," I said coldly. "Make no mistake, you are addressing a vampire. I am in no mood for bullying. If you make another mistake, you will lose your life."
"Are you threatening me, vampire?" he demanded. Pure rage filled his thoughts. He actually believed that I was a child he could spank.
I stood from behind the desk and walked around it to face him. Bashire, shockingly, wanted to kill him. I could feel the murder in his mind. It was a strange thing to feel. We'd been at odds since before the night Sloan was killed, and now he was ready to kill Martin Worthy simply because he had insulted me.
"Take caution in your tone, human," I said with as much contempt in my voice as I could muster. I levitated myself just inches off the floor to stand eye to eye with Worthy. He was at least a foot taller than I was. "If you ever speak to me in that manner again, I will reduce your body to ashes. Make no mistake, I can and will kill you."
To emphasize my point, I embraced the fire inside of me and singed his preppy black suit until the pin stripes were just as black as the rest of the fabric. Pure unbridled fear registered in his mind as I floated there in front of him and let the fire tease him. He was completely convinced that I would kill him.
"There's no need for that," said Agent Fell. Fear caused his voice to shake just slightly.
"Hear me now," I said, turning to face him. "I want every human that is not either employed by this estate or bound to it by blood to leave. Now. If they don't, believe me, there are other vampires in this house and on these grounds that can do the same things I just did to Mr. Worthy. If you don't leave now, all of you will die.
"I don't want a war with humans," I continued as Agent Fell paled. "But I won't stand for being bullied by a species that is beneath me."
"This isn't over," said Mr. Worthy. "You can believe that this isn't over."
"With humans, it will never be over, Mr. Worthy," I told him.
We followed them out of the office, and I was shocked to find every vampire and Forsaken that resided on the estate standing in the hall. A mass of fear filled the minds of the men that filed out of the main house. Every vampire that could had embraced the fire inside of them, and orange nimbuses surrounded each one of us. I knew now that humans could see that as well.
We were silent until the last man was off of the estate. Even after the last man left, no one said anything. I didn't have to turn and look at my coven to know that all eyes were on me, though. I was satisfied that each of them had stood with me, but I knew that not everyone would agree with what I had done. I had just basically told the humans that we were no longer under their thumb. I had invited more problems to make our lives more complicated.
"There is no going back now," I said to them as I stood there in front of the door. "I'm sure the humans will make trouble for us in the future, and any of you who don't agree with what I did can leave the estate now. I won't stop you or allow any other to stand in your way."
The silence stretched like fabric as I looked at all of them. Not one of them made a move to leave the estate or even leave the hall. I could hear all of their thoughts, and what I heard nearly shocked me to my core. Not all of them agreed with what I did, but they were all in agreement that I was King now that Sloan was dead. They'd all read the prophecies, and they knew what was coming. This, as they all saw it, was the beginning of prophecy fulfilled.
I asked Bashire, Brock, Derrick, Kennedy and Raffiki to join me in the study. Franklin went upstairs to check on Daniel, and I thought for a moment about how upset he would be when he learned what was about to happen with the others. I'd made the decision that Franklin would not be among my war time advisory board for many reasons. The biggest reason was that I didn't want him killed. How strange that he was being protected by his younger brother.
"I've asked you all to come into the office with me, because I need advice from each of you," I said once everyone was seated in the office. "Now please understand that I will not ask your advice on every decision I make. I will discuss every decision with you all, but none of you will ever convince me to change any decision."
"What exactly do you want us to do?" asked Bashire. He gazed at me with love and fear in his eyes. I knew the fear he was feeling. I was afraid of the days that were coming, but together, we'd face them.
"First I want to tell you all what I have done in secret," I said. "There is something about House Kahn that you don't know about. Each member of that house is more than just a member of my bloodline. When I drank from Charles Kahn, I discovered things about him and his coven that really disturbed me."
"What did you discover?" asked Brock. He was leaning forward in his chair, and I knew that he didn't trust the Kahns at all, but he didn't seem to be too worried about what it was that I had done to them.
"Charles Kahn had helped rogue vampires many times in the past," I said. "He's responsible for many crimes against the original council. For those reasons, his entire house should have been killed. However, I needed them all, and a special way to use them came to mind as I drank from Charles."
"What did you do?" asked Raffiki. "If they aren't dead..."
"Oh, I assure you that they are all very much alive," I said. "I used a crude form of the mind trap that I imposed on Sloan Farr to bind them to me in a way that would force their loyalty. I don't expect any of you to understand why I did this, but I assure you that I believe it was necessary."
"So they can never betray you?" asked Bashire, and I was startled to find agreement in his mind. He not only understood why I had done what I'd done, but he thought it was the right thing to do.
"No, they can still betray me," I replied. "It will be very hard for them to actually do it, but the will of a vampire is strong. What I did was make sure that I would know when they decide to betray me. Even right now, I know exactly what each member of that house, drones as well, are feeling. I can't tell you what they're thinking, but I know that they all believe that I am their King."
"That's actually perfect," said Brock, nodding to himself as he thought it over. "I can't say that I would agree with your decision if you had done that to a normal fledgling or drone, but House Kahn was rogue for years before the council decided to grant them house status. That agreement was made with Sloan as Vampire High Seat. No one knows for sure what Sloan was getting out of giving them status."
The others agreed with his logic, and I was happy for that. This had put a wedge between me and Bashire, and I didn't like that. Now, it seemed, that wedge was gone. He knew all of my secrets, and somehow he'd come to understand why each house would be put to the choice of joining my bloodline or being declared rogue. That was the biggest problem that we'd had, but he understood it now somehow. I suspected that Brock had made him understand somehow.
We discussed the new rules that would govern both vampires and Forsaken. None of them even flinched when I imposed new rules on both species. I told them that no other rogues would be granted house status or protected in any way. However, we could go into alliance with any of them at any time to suit specific causes. They wouldn't be granted any special treatment once that alliance came to an end, though. All rogues were marked for death, and that was all there was to it.
By the end of our meeting, I'd gotten a lot of advice, but most of it was the same as I would have decided on my own. Everyone knew that they had roles in this war, and being of my own coven, their roles were more important than any other house. I would count on them more than any other vampire or Forsaken in the world.
Brock would begin contacting every Forsaken family that he could in the days that were coming. He would make sure that each of them knew that they were either with the Maxwell Bloodline, or they were rogue as well. This was something that would shake the immortal world to its core. I was surprised when Brock agreed to it so quickly. Even Bashire, though no longer Forsaken, agreed readily with my terms.
Derrick had already been receiving calls from other Watchers, and slayers were deployed all over the world to hunt rogues with zeal. They all knew that in the coming days even legitimate vampire houses would turn rogue soon, and they knew what would have to be done to each of those as well. Derrick assured me that there were no problems there.
That night, just before the sun went down, Daniel opened his eyes again. Franklin and I were in the room with him when he woke, and Brock and Derrick were in the hall. I'd been a little worried about what would happen when Daniel opened his eyes and discovered that he'd been turned. He'd expressed genuine hatred for all of us before he'd been attacked. I wasn't sure that he would be happy about being turned.
"I'm a vampire," he said to both of us. "I can feel it."
"You were attacked by a vampire from outside of this house," I explained. "Franklin saved your life."
"My life?" he asked, looking at Franklin. "You mean he gave me a new one."
"I didn't want you to die, Danny," said Franklin, and I didn't have to read his mind to know that he was terrified.
"I didn't want to believe any of this," said Daniel. "Even after seeing it with my own eyes the night that Mom and Dad died, I didn't want to believe it. I know all about everything now, though."
Could he mean that he'd learned everything the same way that I had? Was Daniel like me? Those were questions that both thrilled and chilled me. If Daniel was just like me, perhaps I wasn't "The One". If that were true, then maybe we were still waiting for that special King of immortals to be born. True, I'd fulfilled almost all of the prophecies, but was that proof that I was "The One"?
"What exactly do you know about us?" I asked him carefully.
"I know that you were telling the truth," he said, looking at me. "I know that you won't hurt me. How can you now? I'm a vampire."
"Did you learn anything about us through the blood?" I asked him.
"What do you mean?" he asked. "I was almost dead when Franklin brought me over. I didn't learn anything about anything while I drank from Franklin. I barely remember doing it."
Just like that, my fears were gone. Daniel wasn't like me. He was a member of my bloodline, but as he displayed for us when he fed, he didn't possess the gift of combustion. He couldn't really use his mind gift that well, either. He was a seer, but he couldn't exert any control over another's mind. He could levitate but not the same way that I could. Bashire could levitate faster and further than Daniel could.
Daniel took to being a vampire very well. He didn't hate any of us at all now. He was curious about us, and he wanted to know all about everything that was happening. He was very surprised, like the rest of us were when a letter was delivered later that night. It was from the director of the FBI, and its contents told us that we weren't just at war with other vampires.
Be advised that we will not allow you to exert any type of authority over humans in any way. What you've done is a clear violation of the agreement made between our government and the council set up so many years ago. We will retaliate any time you try to use force against another member of our government. That includes any harm inflicted on police of any agency.
As for feeding, you will stick to the same rules that were imposed when your council was formed. If even one innocent human is killed by what you call legitimate vampires or those you consider to be rogue, action will be taken against vampires everywhere. You have been warned.