I VAMPIRE II
by Julien Gregg
When the sun rose that morning, Holden joined
us in the hunt. I even relented and let Paul come along. Of course that was
after I'd entered his mind and set the same trap I'd used a hundred years before
on House Kahn. He wouldn't be doing anything that would anger me now that I had
him properly leashed. I also put the images of Bashire and the female vampires
in his head so that he would know what it was he was hunting for. He already
knew the scent of a vampire, and each vampire smelled slightly different. If he
smelled a scent that didn't belong to the group he was with, he'd know he'd
found Bashire, and I could confidently put him in a group other than my own
without worrying that he'd run off to rape and murder.
Holden and Gabriel chose to hunt in my group. I ordered Andrew to my group, and he didn't seem to like that. I had to find out what was in his head before there was a confrontation between us. I decided that after we'd slept Andrew and I were going to sit down and have a long talk. By the time it was over he'd either change his attitude or I'd have to take action. That wasn't something I wanted to do.
We searched the city again and found no trace of Bashire or his females. I was starting to think that they had really left San Juan, but of course that would be foolish of me. They were hiding somewhere in the city that we couldn't get to or we just hadn't found. I was growing frustrated with the search. I wanted Bashire dealt with. This was taking too long. I was sure that if he hadn't left the city he'd attack us while we were not ready. The thought of returning to that cell or one like it chilled me.
"You're angry," said Holden as he came to stand in front of me. We were standing in the privately owned field where the cells were located.
"I'm not angry," I replied, looking into his mind and gasping at what I found. Whatever the nanobots had done to his senses, his mind was so open that all I had to do was glance and I had everything. I guessed that the opposite was true as well. I suspected that the nanobots had enhanced his mental gifts just as much as his physical ones.
"You're heart is beating fast, like it does when you feed," he said. "You are agitated. I want to know why."
"Holden, you don't have to..."
"I do have to," he interrupted. "I don't want you upset."
"I'll be fine," I said. "We just have to find Bashire."
"We'll find him," he said with so much confidence I almost thought he was foretelling.
"Yes," I said after a moment. "We'll find him."
As we made the journey back to the house I thought a lot about Holden and his new situation. I had been very worried about what the nanobots would do to him, but so far everything they'd done seemed beneficial to him. Sure, he could only see out of one eye at the moment, but I suspected that the change to that eye wasn't finished. I was almost sure that the nanobots would correct the problem he was having with the way he used his gift of combustion.
His skin was another matter. I couldn't figure that one out. I understood that it was a benefit and made him almost invincible to body attacks, but what about fledglings and drones? They had to drink his blood to be created. If he couldn't even get his own fangs to pierce his skin how was he going to sire a fledgling or bond a drone? Was he to live through eternity without ever having experienced the joy of becoming a sire? The thought was depressing.
I thought about my fledglings as I lay in bed waiting for sleep to calm my overactive mind. I was most worried about Brendan. His change in personality really worried me because he'd been so quiet when he was human and now he seemed only to be interested in Paul. It was unheard of for a fledgling to sire his own fledgling so soon after awakening from his death sleep. Only I had done that in the past and it had been an accident. Brendan had done it on purpose, and now he was looking for a drone. I had no idea what he was planning to do once he had a drone and a fledgling. Normally that would put him at house status, but I'd already said that there would be no more vampire houses.
Gabriel had reacted to the change perfectly. He wasn't overly aggressive or passive. He seemed completely happy with his immortality and completely devoted to me. I loved him for his acceptance and eager thirst for knowledge. Unlike Brendan, Gabriel sought his knowledge from the oldest of the vampires around him. He and Jessup had talked many times and Jessup had told me that Gabriel was a very bright young fledgling with a hungry mind. I liked that.
Holden had changed so much that he was almost a completely different person. His suspicious human mind had completely changed. He accepted what he was and he loved me unconditionally. I knew that mostly it was because I was the father he had wanted instead of the one he'd had. I didn't demand things from him and I returned his love equally unconditionally. I worried about what the nanobots were doing to him, but other than that I think I was most pleased by Holden.
Andrew was my biggest worry. His ability to close his mind and not let me in really bothered me. It wasn't unheard of, but I didn't expect it to happen in one of the young fledglings. The fact that he knew when I probed at his mind showed me that he was closing it to me intentionally. Sure, his turning had been violent and against his will, but I had fully expected that he would be accepting of his change when he woke. He did seem to accept his change, but his anger and hatred hadn't softened with the change. I was very worried about what he was planning. I knew he had to be planning something. I just didn't think it would be good.
"Do you mind?" Holden asked as he came into the room, startling me. "I'm having trouble sleeping."
He was gloriously naked and I had to admit that I liked what I saw. I hadn't planned to have sex with the new fledglings after they'd been turned. They were, after all, my sons. Looking at Holden's nude body as he stood there tempted me. The thought of a body in the bed with me was very welcome. I didn't enjoy sleeping alone.
"Come on in," I replied, patting the space in the bed beside me.
He got in the bed and pulled the covers over his naked body. He surprised me when he took my hand in his. I squeezed only to have him return the gesture. His mind was completely open to me at all times. I wasn't used to that. Most of the vampires tried to block me and keep their thoughts private. I could usually get around their blocks, but that wasn't the point.
"Andrew is like that with all of us," he said after a period of silence.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"His mind is closed to all of us," he said. "He doesn't look any of us in the eye and when we finally get him to we see how cold his eyes are. He hates all of us. He hates Gabriel and me the most though."
"Why?" I asked.
"I believe it's because of our relationship with you," he said. "Andrew's jealous."
"That can't be it," I said. "He has to know that if he wanted the type of relationship that I have with you and Gabriel all he has to do is open up and talk to me."
"I could be wrong, but I don't think so," he said. "I sure am glad to be here with you, though. I wanted to die when you were missing."
"I thought I was going to," I replied, turning to my side so I could kiss the side of his forehead.
"Well, I'm glad you're here, Eric," he said, turning on his side to look me in the eye. "I need you right now."
"I know you do," I said. "With the nanobots I'm sure you're a little worried."
"I am," he said. "Like I said I knew basically what they would do to me, but not the severity. Something is still happening with my eye and now and then the other one throbs just the same. That means there are more changes coming in the other eye."
"Any other changes I don't know about?" I asked.
"You'd know about them already," he said, smiling at me enough that I could see his fangs. "I never close my mind to you, Eric."
"I know you don't," I said, smiling but thinking of Andrew again.
"My skin is the only other change," he said. "I'm sure there'll be more as time goes on though."
We cuddled close after that and drifted off to sleep. My arms were around him and we were like stone as we slept. Vampire bodies become hard almost like stone when we sleep. To anyone who would happen by we'd appear to have died in each other's arms. While a vampire sleeps his entire system shuts down, so in essence it is a little bit of death. After all we were the undead.
At sundown we smiled at each other as soon as our eyes opened. Moments later, Nathan was there with two from the livestock. I smiled up at him as we untangled so that we could feed. Nathan waited patiently while we fed. I could hear his thoughts all mixed up with the thoughts and images coming from my victim. He wondered if Holden had finally taken Bashire's place in my bed. I wanted to withdraw my fangs and let him know that though it was none of his business, the answer was no.
When my victim was ash at my feet, Holden lifted his eye patch. Both of us were surprised when nothing happened. He looked at me, and though his eye glowed red there was no fire. Then I saw the nimbus surround him as he turned back to his victim. Fire shot from his eye and incinerated his victim until there was only ash like mine.
"That's encouraging," I said with bloody smile. "You may want to remember to wear the patch when you venture out of the house. Humans will notice."
"I'll remember that," he said, taking the eye patch completely off. He turned to leave the room and said, "I'll meet you downstairs."
"Alright," I replied as Nathan followed me into the bathroom to help me with my bath.
As he washed me, I thought of Andrew and the confrontation I was sure was coming. It would be foolish for me to hope that Holden's assumption that Andrew was jealous was the real reason behind his attitude. I was sure there was something more. His cold eyes had to have come from something more than mere jealousy. The situation had to be dealt with before he blundered too far for acceptance. I just hoped that I didn't get another rogue threat. The threat from one son was enough.
A half hour later we appeared in the lounge, dressed and ready. Brock watched us for a moment but didn't say anything. I would have to have a conversation with him if time permitted. My first order of business was the blond vampire who sat apart from the others. Andrew was staring at the coffee table in front of him. A copy of the revised book of laws sat in his sight line. His mind was just as closed as ever and when I probed it he looked at me.
"You and I need to have a private conversation, Andrew," I said slowly as he looked at me with those cold eyes of his.
The room grew completely quiet as everyone waited. Andrew looked at me for a long moment and I was starting to think that he would openly defy me right there and then. I didn't want that to happen. If it did he would be dead before anyone could say a word. I wouldn't risk one of my own children going rogue. I just wouldn't do it.
"As you wish, Father," he said, getting up from his seat to follow me as I turned and left the room.
We went into the study and I sat behind my desk. I noticed that he shook his head slightly as he sat down in the chair closest to the desk. I wondered what that was about. I didn't know exactly how to start the conversation I knew we needed to have. Closing his mind to me wasn't exactly a violation of any law. It just made me suspicious. Remembering the way he was turned gave me cause to be suspicious of his motives. He'd hated me before he was turned and it seemed that he hadn't warmed even one degree since waking from his death sleep.
"I've been hearing things about you from the drones," I said carefully, watching him as I spoke.
"I'm sure you have," he said, watching me just as closely as I watched him. "I'm sure they've told you about the two candidates that I killed."
"They have," I revealed. "They also say that you are nearly ruthless in your hunt."
"As I should be," he replied. "I am a killer, am I not?"
"You are," I replied cautiously. "However you are also much more than that."
"Really?" he asked, tilting his head a bit and looking at me with those eyes.
"Yes, really," I said. "One day you will be a sire. You'll have drones and a house of your own to run."
"Not likely," he replied. "I have no desire to sire fledglings, and I believe that drones will slow me down."
"How so?" I asked.
"They have to be fed," he replied with a shrug. "I have no desire to have them scraping behind me all of the time, either. The drones here in House Maxwell drive me to solitude."
"And the closing of your mind?" I asked, tilting my own head a bit.
"I don't know what you mean," he replied. "I don't actively close my mind from you, Father. Perhaps if you truly wanted to see what is in my mind you would."
"I will not be baited into an argument, Andrew," I said sharply.
"Of course not," he replied sarcastically. "I'm just a fledgling."
"You are more than a fledgling," I snapped. "You're my son."
"Oh, is that the way you feel?" he asked, drawing out his words dramatically. "I can poorly tell with all of the time you spend with Holden and Gabriel. Brendan I can understand. He distanced himself from you the day he reclaimed his life. I don't think it was wise to let Paul live, but you didn't consult me about that. I believe that letting that fledgling live will spark more betrayals eventually. How long do you think it will be before you wake up to find that Holden and Gabriel have turned unsavory dregs from the livestock?"
"Your brothers' actions aren't your concern, Andrew," I said slowly. "Holden is nowhere near ready for a fledgling. He's too wrapped into his changing. Gabriel is too much in love with the night to devote his time to fledglings."
"I'd have thought the two of them were too devoted to you to want fledglings of their own," he said.
"And here it is," I said with a sigh. "Jealousy."
"I'm not jealous of either of them," he snapped. "I would like to be closer to you, yes. That doesn't mean I would interfere with your relationship with them in any way."
"Then what is it, Andrew?" I demanded. "What is it that has those beautiful eyes of yours looking so cold and forbidding? Why is your mind closed?"
"I don't know why my mind is closed," he said. "I hear them all talk about hearing each other's thoughts and I can't understand it because my head is silent. My own thoughts are the only ones I'm privy to. As for closing my mind, I don't even know how to go about it. The gifts the others talk about are not like mine. Sure, I can burn the flesh of my victims. They don't become ash at my feet. They simply die and then I have to dispose of them. I don't hear the thoughts of others and I certainly can't compel them the way you can. I don't understand any of what they talk about. I can fly, yes. I discovered that quite by accident just last night. The rest is completely out of my league."
So this was the source of his attitude. He believed himself inferior. I suspected that his problems lay in the way he was turned. I believed that there was a way to give him the gifts he was lacking, but I wasn't sure he'd have anything to do with what I had in mind. I couldn't get it out of my mind that Andrew hated me for turning him. He'd said nothing to make me think otherwise.
"If your hatred of me will allow, I may know a way to remedy your absence of gifts," I said slowly, and he glared at me.
"Hatred?" he gasped. "I do not hate you. I love you, damn it. I didn't believe I would think of you as anything more than a monster, but when I opened my vampire eyes for the first time you were the first thing I thought of. I nearly died inside when I learned that you'd been abducted by Bashire. What no one ever asked me was how I was feeling. Then you returned and I was so excited that I could barely contain myself. Again, no one asked me how I felt. You took your time with Holden and Gabriel after you dealt with Brendan's betrayal. Still you ignored me. How on Earth can you know what I'm feeling? You have never asked."
I stood up and walked around the desk to stand before him. He loved me, he'd said. He was right that I had no idea what he was feeling or thinking because he had no way to show me and I hadn't bothered to ask. He was right about my avoiding him and spending almost all of my time with Holden and Gabriel. He was right about so many things. I wanted so desperately to let him feel the love I had in my heart for him.
"Stand up, Andrew," I said softly. "Drink from me and know what is in my heart."
He needed no further instruction. He stood and took me into his arms. His touch was gentle, but as his fangs sank into my throat his embrace tightened. I tried with all of my vampire might to push all of my feelings for him into my blood as it spilled across his tongue. I wanted so badly for him to know the joy he'd brought into my life the day I had brought him home. I hadn't intended to feel paternal toward my new fledglings, but adopting them had made them my sons and I their father. It was a strange situation but it was what it was.
"I love you so much, Father," he said as soon as he let go of my throat. "Drink from me and know that I speak the truth from my heart."
I ran my nose across his neck and willed that magic vein to present itself fully. When I got what I wanted I slowly sank my fangs into it and let the euphoria wash over him. He sagged against me as blast after blast of raw emotion was transmitted through his blood. My knees were weak as I drank from him and my heart was filled with pride. He'd meant what he said about loving me. He loved me without condition, but he was hurt by my ignoring him. He had hoped that we would be close when he opened his eyes from his death sleep, and I had let him down.
"I can hear your thoughts," he moaned as I pulled his essence from his vein. "You berate yourself for not showing me sooner. Father, knowing this now seals us together like nothing else. Don't wallow in what has happened between us. Just knowing that you love me makes me the happiest vampire in existence."
Opening his mind had been as simple as this blood transfer. So many things had happened through my blood when I'd done simple blood transfers. A drone had been turned, knowledge had been gained and poison had been administered to try and kill me. This time it had done exactly what I had wanted it to do. I had healed his broken mind and gave him the gifts that had been denied him from his brutal turning.
"Father, you have to come!" cried Brendan's voice from the doorway. "There are Forsaken on the grounds and Brock says you have to come. They're fighting, Father!"
I pulled my fangs from Andrew's neck and followed him out of the study. When we got to the front door I could see the battle being waged on the lawn. Six morphed Forsaken were fighting vampires and Forsaken alike on the lawn! They had to know that their saliva was useless against us. My blood had seen to that. What they thought they would accomplish was beyond me.
"Come!" cried Brock as he turned and saw me. "See what treachery Juan has spawned. This is why he refused to bond with Brendan! These are his men!"
Before I knew it I was outside and standing before a hideous morphed Forsaken. He swung his clawed fingers at me, but I stepped back before he could touch me. What was he thinking? I was the King of the immortals and he was nothing but a newly spawned Forsaken. I opened myself to the fire inside of me and unleashed it's Hell against him. I heard his screams as I burned him slowly.
Holden and Gabriel were fighting with two other Forsaken. Brock was with them. Before I the one dying at me feet finally became ash, I saw Holden's eye blast fire at one of the Forsaken who'd challenged him. The morphed man was ash in seconds and then he turned to the other. I waited to see it happen again but his vampire voice boomed into the night.
"Leave this place!" he cried. "You are all damned! If you return we will find you all and destroy you. You've seen what happens when Forsaken challenge the children of my father! Take this lesson back to your hateful Sire!"
I didn't know what to think of the Forsaken
attack. None of my vampires were seriously hurt. The wounds they had suffered
were healing on their own even before the last of the Forsaken were ash or
leaving. Holden's message would hopefully reach Juan and let him know that he
wasn't our main priority, but we would be coming for him. For the rest of the
night we were all on alert. I was left wondering just what the attack had been
about. Surely he knew that Forsaken were no match for vampires. They never had
been. Now that their saliva wasn't deadly to vampires, they had no advantage.
The attack was suicide.
"No one is seriously injured," reported Brock when I made it to the lounge. "Rafiki and Danial suffered minor injuries but they've already healed."
"Thank you, Brock," I said as I took my seat. He was telling me nothing I didn't already know. What I wanted to know was why they'd done it.
"Word is coming in from the other vampire houses," he said as he sat beside me for the first time since I'd returned from Bashire's stone prison. "No major injuries. There were six Forsaken at each of the vampire houses tonight. These attacks made no sense and we're trying to put together theories as to why they did it."
"It makes no sense at all," I replied. "They had to know we'd kill them."
"Exactly," he said. "One Forsaken was allowed to return to Juan with Holden's message. All of the others on each estate were killed."
And then the vision slammed into me with the force required to nearly knock me out of my seat. I was walking down the street in a section of the city I didn't recognize. Buildings were in flames everywhere I went. Holden and Andrew were at my side as we walked. I could feel the asphalt melting under my feet so I knew that I was the cause of the fire. What I didn't know was why. Whatever had happened had drove me to set the city on fire. I didn't like it, but it was over just as fast as it began. I sighed hard and put my head down.
"What is it?" Brock asked as he placed his hand on my shoulder.
"Fire," I sighed. "I'm going to set half the city on fire."
"What are you talking about?" he asked, near panic.
"I'm not sure," I said. "I didn't see enough to know what was going on other than the city was ablaze and I was the cause."
"Do you know when this will happen?" he asked.
"No," I admitted. "The vision was there and then it was gone. I didn't get to see much other than the fire. I could feel the asphalt melting everywhere I walked."
"This isn't good," he stated. "If this happens they'll know about you again."
"I'm aware of that, Brock," I said a little harder than I'd meant to. "I have never been able to alter the future. What I see is always already in motion. You know that."
"This attack had something to do with this didn't it?" he asked.
"I have no way to know for sure," I said. "I'd be willing to bet it is the beginning of something that will cause me to start using my gift in ways I've never used it before."
"But the whole city?" he asked, looking at me hard.
"Brock, I only saw it for a few seconds before it was gone again," I said slowly. "I don't know any more about it than what I've already told you. It could have been the whole city or it could have been a city block. Either way I'm not happy about it. I know that if it happens the world will know about me again. I don't want that to happen."
"There has to be a way to stop this," he sighed, running his fingers through is hair. "There has to be."
"Believe me if I knew of a way I would use it," I said, getting up to leave the room. I couldn't think with all of them watching me.
What I truly wanted was to catch the vision again and see it through to its conclusion. That wasn't likely to happen though. Even with my stronger gifts I still hadn't mastered the art of bringing on a vision. This was the first I'd had since waking up from the sleep. Until that one I'd been afraid that my foretelling gift was dead. Now to have it rear up and show me something I didn't want to see was unsettling. I knew what it meant. There would be death and destruction soon. That was the only thing I could think of that would cause me to use my gift in that way. The only other thing it could mean was another war with the humans. After watching the destruction of so many vampires in the last war, I didn't want another one. Perhaps that was it. Perhaps I was trying to burn them all out.
I still hadn't found the vision again by the time the sun was rising. I went up to bed wondering why it was that after the sleep the rising sun made us all feel so tired. It was strange how things had changed with the sleep. Now we didn't wake up until the sun went down. It wasn't impossible to stay awake with the sun in the sky, but it was hard. My last thoughts before my eyes closed was that there were probably more changes from the sleep that I had yet to learn about.
I was asleep only an hour at most before I sensed it. There were Forsaken on the grounds. These Forsaken weren't mine, and I fought to wake up. Waking up had never been so hard. I was fully awake by the time I smelled the smoke. There was only one conclusion to draw from the amount of smoke in the room. The entire house was on fire. The Forsaken had set fire to the house! My memory touched on the attack on House Doran as I threw on last night's clothing and fled the room, bumping in to Holden.
"Father, the house is in flames," he said. "It won't be saved."
"I'm aware of that, Holden," I said, taking his arm and rushing to the stairs.
"The others are outside," he said. "They are fighting with the Forsaken."
When we got outside I was appalled at what I saw. In broad daylight the Forsaken were morphed. We were a considerable distance from any other house but that didn't mean that no one would see if they came close enough. I embraced the fire within my heart as I flew into the air. I was aware that I would present a bigger spectacle, but I only gave it a passing thought as I started to incinerate each of the Forsaken. This was getting ridiculous. They had to know that with our fire gifts they didn't stand a chance.
"It's happening to all of the vampire houses," said Brock when I landed on the ground. "They're all beyond saving."
"What of the livestock?" I demanded.
"All dead," he replied, and I had to glare at him.
"How?" I asked.
"Most from smoke inhalation," he said. "The others were burned alive."
"Just like House Doran," I hissed. Bashire had gone too far.
Seconds later the rest of the vampire line arrived on the grounds of what had been House Maxwell. Jessup came to me at once. He stood before me with a defeated look in his eyes. I wondered what could have the man looking like that before I looked into his mind to discover the horrible truth. His fledglings were dead. They'd died fighting Forsaken. How many Forsaken had Juan sired? This was infuriating.
"It was a slaughter, Eric," he said finally. "They couldn't wake up before they were beheaded."
"They'll pay for this," I vowed. "I won't let them die in vain."
"I see now why Bashire must die," he said with sorrow thick in his voice. "He is as insane as his nephew."
"This has nothing to do with Tyron, Jessup," I spat. "This is all Bashire."
We fled when we heard the sirens. I wanted no one on the grounds when the authorities arrived. We met the Kahns as we fled. Their house was gone as well. All of the vampire houses were burning to the ground. There would be no saving them. As I thought about this and my anger boiled I made a decision that I would have to keep to myself until the right time. There would never be another vampire house. We were too vulnerable when we all lived under the same roof.
We arrived at St. Augustine Cemetery just as the sun began to set. As soon as we got there I smelled the undead. They weren't my undead. The fact that they were male surprised me. Had not all of the rogues perished in the war with the humans? That must have been the answer. I could detect at least ten of them on the grounds of the cemetery. That number wasn't a problem. We could dispatch that many in seconds as long as they didn't possess the gift of combustion to fight back.
"As my undead heart beats, it's Eric Maxwell," said the voice of a tall male as he stepped out from the door of a vault. He looked to be no older than sixteen with long dark hair and fierce green eyes. I smelled Bashire on him and it infuriated me further.
"And you are?" I asked as I embraced the fire. I nearly shuddered when I saw him do the same thing.
"My name is Miguel," he replied. "I want no quarrel with the King of Immortals. I only wish to exist. My coven has done nothing to you."
"You are rogue," I said simply.
"I did not ask to be a vampire," he spat. "Bashire didn't give me a choice. I'd have rather he fed on me. Instead he turned me. He turned many."
"All like you?" I asked, looking round for the others.
"Not all," he replied. "Some are with him. Others have fled San Juan in fear of you."
"And you have not?" I asked. "Do you not fear me?"
"Of course I fear you," he said quickly. "I know that my gift is but a fraction of the fire inside of you. I know that if I were to strike I would be ash before you felt the even the smallest amount of heat. I want no quarrel with you."
I thought about what he'd said. I could see it in his mind. He was telling me the truth. His coven had done nothing but try to stay out of our way. He hated Bashire just as much as I did. He loved him almost as much as I did. It was a strange mixture of emotion. I knew it well. Agonizing over the thought of having to end Bashire once and for all was torture. I saw in his mind that he was experiencing the same torture for different reasons. He wanted his maker dead, but it wasn't for the reasons that I wanted him dead. Miguel wanted revenge for his turning.
"There are nine other undead in this cemetery," I said as I pondered what I saw in his head. "Let them show themselves."
"So you can kill us all at once?" he asked. "I am their leader. Should I not try to protect them for as long as I can?"
"They will not be harmed," I replied, hearing Brock gasp. "I give you my word."
"But we are rogue," he said. "You said it yourself."
"Times have changed," I breathed. "If the time has come that vampires are made against their will, then why should I be the one to kill them?"
I looked at Andrew and saw the small smile on his face. He was enjoying this. He looked into my eyes and I heard the love in his thoughts. He didn't hate me for what he was like Miguel hated Bashire. He loved me completely. It was almost startling. I meant what I'd said, though. I wouldn't harm this coven of vampires.
"They take you at your word," he said as the others stepped out of the tomb.
They were all dirty and poorly clothed. I could see from their eyes that they had been plucked from the lower class Mexican families throughout the city. The very sight of them angered me. How could he have done it? There was no more of an answer for that question than why he had tried to kill me and Brendan. It just was.
"We will leave you in peace," I said. "You will not be harmed, you are all legitimate vampires in my eyes."
"We will continue to stay out of your way," said Miguel with a slight bow.
"You'll leave Bashire to me?" I asked.
"As you wish, Father Eric," he said. "Bashire will be left to you."
I flinched as two of Miguel's companions burst into flame. Miguel looked at me with murder in his eyes until the winged female who had set them ablaze landed between us. Her hair was almost to her feet and it was the color of night. Her eyes were blood red and set back in her morphed face. She was hideous to look at with her webbed arms and legs. Slowly the webbing receded until it was a gauzy white gown. Her face settled into that of a normal human and her eyes became the color of the sea.
"You let them live?" she asked. "You let these males live unharmed while you kill my sisters?"
"These vampires have done nothing to you or your cursed sisters," I said loudly. I embraced the fire within me once again as she did the same.
"Do you think I will kneel to you, King Eric?" she spat and threw back her head to laugh.
"You break your promise, Madison," said Miguel. "Anthony and Rico did nothing to you. We leave your kind to the Forsaken and you repay us with murder."
"Silence, little brother," she said, turning her evil eyes on him. "I did what I had to do to show Eric the way of his blunder. You will all die at my hand if you try to interfere."
"Leave them out of this," I spat. "This is between me and you. They have nothing to do with it."
"The fact that you're still alive makes it crystal clear to me that they do have something to do with it," she replied. "They know what you did to Illianna and Anna, and they let you live!"
"Our letting them live had nothing to do with you, Madison," said Miguel. "What do we care what happens to you and your coven?"
"Bashire will make you all pay!" she cried. "He'll make you weep for the day you first tasted blood."
"Bashire will be dealt with in due time, Madison," I said. "If you truly want to fight with me then let's go."
"Oh you're so smug," she hissed. "I could burn you where you stand."
"You could try," I said as suddenly Holden and Gabriel were at my side. I felt them embrace the fire in their hearts at almost the same instant that I noticed that they'd moved to stand beside me.
"Let me kill her, Father," said Holden as he glared at her.
"'Let me kill her, Father,'" she mimicked and then began to cackle.
"You're just as insane as Bashire," I said, unleashing the fire. She gasped as it reached her. Instantly she morphed and flew into the air.
"You have to be faster than that, Father!" she cried as she flew away from the cemetery, leaving us all to stare up into the sky. Her laughter was plain until she was out of sight.
Miguel's two companions, Anthony and Rico, were not dead. Their wounds were already healing as we watched. I could feel Miguel's worry for them. He hated Madison almost as much as he hated Bashire. I was happy to count him as a friend that night. It seemed I had friends I didn't know about all over the city.
"You all should stay here with us," said Miguel when he turned to face me again. "I believe you mean us no harm."
"I thank you for your invitation but..."
"A cemetery is lower than the standards you're used to," he said, cutting me off. "I'm sorry but it's all I have to offer."
"You misread what I was going to say," I replied. "I was going to say that we will hunt while the night is young. Then we will retire to another place that belongs to us. You are more than welcome to come with us."
"No offence, Father Eric," he said, bowing slightly again. "I think we'll sit this one out."
"As you wish," I replied, turning to leave and almost running over Brock.
"We're just going to let them be?" he asked, eyeing Miguel hard.
"Yes," I said. "They have broken no laws, and they do not stand against me. Why would I not let them be?"
"They're rogue," he nearly hissed.
"They are not, because I say they are not," I said. "Miguel and his coven are to be left alone."
"As you wish," he replied tightly.
As we left the cemetery, I was reminded of the day we'd walked the streets to find Sloan Far. We'd come upon House Kahn and I'd been so ready to wipe them out of existence. Now we were faced with almost the same thing. The first of the rogues that we knew would show up had been found and instead of Brock and Bashire telling me to let them be, I was ordering that they were legitimate solely because I had decided they were. The irony did not escape me.
We searched the city for hours. It was getting to be time for the sun to come up, and I knew we would grow tired but we would continue to hunt. Being a Maxwell vampire assured us that the sun wouldn't stop us. It would only ensure that we had no more run ins with Madison or her sister. The next time I encountered her, I intended to kill her. I couldn't stand knowing that she was out there.
The fact that Bashire was siring vampires all over the city enraged me. That he would become my adversary was enough to make my blood boil, but the actual making of rogue vampires was beyond anything else he'd done. He'd pay. That was all there was to it. He would pay with his life. It destroyed my heart to even think of destroying Bashire, but I knew that it had to be done. There was no going back. He had become the very thing he'd sworn he would never be.
The government was responsible for the Bashire I faced in this new time. He'd ranted about the experiments they'd subjected him to, and a tiny part of me screamed that it wasn't his fault. That part of me heard the raw emotion in his voice when he'd told me that he'd waited, enduring everything they'd done to him in the faith that I would rescue him. That part of me screamed that I'd let Bashire down. I had to fight hard to silence that voice and it hurt to do it.
"Movement," Holden said, tearing me away from thoughts of Bashire. The sun was in the sky so it wasn't my fledgling I had to worry about. "In the rubble.'
We were back at the ruined site of House Maxwell and I trusted Holden's nanobot enhanced vampire vision. If he saw movement then perhaps someone was alive in that rubble. Perhaps one of the livestock had survived the blaze. It was completely possible that one of the drones had lived through the blaze. We'd lost three drones. I'd have been completely happy to find even one of them alive in the rubble. We needed all of the man power we could get.
"It isn't a drone," said Brock as he came closer. "I can smell it. He is Forsaken."
"All of the Forsaken of House Maxwell are with me now," I said, embracing the fire within me. "Show yourself or be killed like a coward!"
Then I heard the unmistakable sound of Forsaken morphing. They were all over the smoking rubble. I counted twenty before I heard the first roar. My blood ran cold as the hulking morphed forms began to slowly move toward us.
They moved as one and it was as if they were
marching. I knew that all of the vampires who could had embraced the fire inside
of them because we literally lit up the night with our glowing bodies. As the
Forsaken began to snarl I noticed that Brock and the Forsaken on my side were
beginning to morph as well. The only thing that would keep us from killing our
own was the scent of them now. They all looked so alike it was scary.
It was daylight, and this was not going to go unnoticed by mortals if it continued. I had to think of a way to end this conflict as quickly as possible. As the first Forsaken leapt toward us I sent out the fire to strike it down. I heard the reverberating scream of agony as it was engulfed. The second to launch itself at us found its mark before anyone could set it ablaze. Paul went down screaming as two more Forsaken leapt upon him. Fire shot from everywhere as we tried so hard to kill the Forsaken without burning Paul. His screams echoed in the budding day as one by one the Forsaken became ash. When his screams stopped I saw that the first Forsaken who had jumped on him had tore off his head!
"No!" cried Brendan as his body became almost too bright to look at. I was afraid that he would burn himself if he didn't release the fire. He released it all and directed it at the fleeing Forsaken who had killed his fledgling. The Forsaken was already returning to human form and my blood boiled when I saw that it was Juan.
Brendan began to run after him, but it was Gabriel who stopped him. The Forsaken that were still alive began to return to human form and run. Their number had dwindled to five, but I wasn't satisfied. One by one they burst into flame as they ran. Their screams rivaled Brendan's as he mourned his fallen love.
As the last of them died we began to regroup. Brock and the other Forsaken stood naked before us. Brock's head was down and he appeared to be sobbing. I probed his mind to find that he felt responsible for the death of Paul. I went to him and wrapped him in my arms trying to sooth him, but his heart would not calm. This little war was costing too much.
When we finally made it to the corporate offices of Maxwell Enterprises The staff had already arrived. It took much mind control to make it possible for the naked Forsaken to enter the building and not cause a reaction. We climbed to the top of the main building where we filed into the large board room. Jessup assured me that no one would come through the doors as we all found places to sleep. I slept next to my first drone and held him while he sobbed.
When the sun went down, Brock was still in my arms. His sobbing had stopped, but his mind was still heavy with the belief that he had failed Paul. I didn't know what to do to make him see that it wasn't his fault. This could all be placed at Bashire's feet. I didn't know for sure that Juan was in league with Bashire, but I believed it nonetheless. I knew that I had to kill them both no matter what it took. Many would lose their lives in this fight, but I couldn't let the fear of loosing more vampires stop me from making the world a safer place for the surviving vampires.
"Thank you for sleeping with me, Eric," he said when his eyes opened. He sat up and stretched his body before getting up from the floor and walking off to the bathroom. There was always that need with Forsaken that vampires knew nothing about anymore.
I sat up and looked at the waking vampires, Forsaken and drones for a moment. This would be the day that Juan met his death. I knew it somehow. I could feel it in my bones. Juan would die before the sun rose. I was almost positive that we'd run into either Bashire or Madison before the sun rose again as well, but my first order of business was Juan. He had to pay for the loss of Paul.
"Will it ever be the way it was again?" Franklin asked as he came to sit beside me. "I mean my first year as a vampire. I was happy, Eric. Everything was perfect."
"I don't know what that is like, Franklin," I replied. "All I've known since the night I opened my vampire eyes is violence. For me being a vampire has been nothing but destruction and unwanted glory."
"But it can be different, Eric," he said. "I have to believe that things will go back to the way they were. If I don't believe it then this is completely pointless."
I looked at him for a moment. I wished that I could tell him that all of this would end and everything would be fine for vampires all over the world. The fact was that there were no vampires all over the world. Our entire population was in San Juan, South Texas. If there was ever going to be a resurgence of my bloodline this had to end. We had to have time to create fledglings and help them grow strong. My young sons were being baptized by fire. They were learning what it meant to fight for their survival already.
"I believe it will end, Franklin," I said. "But I don't believe that life will ever be comfortable for me. I know that you crave the simplicity of your first year as a vampire, but for me and those around me life will always be a struggle."
"I know," he said sadly. "I'm sorry that it has to be that way for you."
"I know, brother," I said. "I know."
The hunt resumed as soon as all of the drones and Forsaken were ready. We searched the streets for any sign of Bashire or Juan. For Madison we watched the sky. I sensed other small covens of rogue vampires, but so far they hadn't decided to join either side of the fight. I was prepared to let them hide it out.
Half way back to the cemetery where Miguel's coven resided I got my first hand experience of how fast the female vampires could move. Madison and her sister dropped out of the sky right in front of us, and I could see the fire in their eyes. They laughed at us and then they were gone again. I looked at Holden as he scanned the sky with his enhanced eyes. Then I heard a chilling sound from behind me. Daniel was screaming in pain. I whirled around to find him engulfed in flames. The fair haired vampire female I hadn't seen was standing in front of him. She'd used the gift of combustion against my little brother!
Without thinking I moved to stand behind her. I grabbed her by her blond hair and flew into the air. She twisted around and clawed at my fingers as the fire left her eyes. She saw the fire in mine and she hissed at me, showing me her longer fangs. I screamed in her face as I loosed the fire on her. As we flew higher and higher into the sky she became ash and slipped from my hands in burning embers. I looked down at the scene below me and cursed as I saw another of my party burning.
Dropping out of the sky to stand in front of Madison was the biggest surprise of her vampire life. She shrieked and jumped back, letting go of the fire inside of her. It was too late though. Brock was already dead. I screamed in frustration and pain as she flew into the air, taunting me as she flew. I gave chase and we streaked across the sky. I kept trying to burn her in flight but she was so fast that I couldn't catch her.
"Faster, Father, faster!" she cried and then cackled that maddening laugh of hers.
"You'll pay, you treacherous bitch!" I screamed as I flew faster.
"Juan will have play time tonight with what is left of your ranks," she said. "You I will take care of myself. And Bashire says you are so powerful! You will pay for the destruction of my sisters, King."
The tops of the palm trees burst into flames as I continually tried to incinerate her and burn her evil out. She cackled at me with each misfire. It only made me want to catch her more. With this much fire it wouldn't take long for the authorities to come and discover us flying around. I didn't want discovery to happen this way. I wanted her dead first! And then she was just gone! No matter where I looked I couldn't find her. Madison had simply vanished, and I wondered if this was one of the female vampires' strange powers Franklin had talked about.
I quickly returned to the ground and we all headed for a different part of the city. I could hear the sirens as we made our way down the crowding streets. We each reached out with our minds to erase the memory of vampires in the sky from all of the minds we touched along the way. If any of them remembered anything of what they'd seen it would be garbled and most likely disbelieved. That was fine with me. I'd rather the humans look disoriented and confused than let the world find out that vampires were back.
"Did you think you killed me?" came Madison's voice from the sky as soon as we were at least two miles from the fires.
I took to the air as soon as I heard her. The others kept walking as they kept a watchful eye on the sky. Madison cackled when she saw that I was in the air and she flew straight at me. That was fine with me. I embraced the fire and waited, but at the last minute she soared higher. I didn't let go. I followed her up as high as she went and it was then that I felt the piercing pain run down my back. I turned in the air to see Bashire surrounded by the orange nimbus. The sight of him made me lose my grip on the gift of flight. I plummeted to the earth but managed to regain some of my gift before I hit the ground.
I soared back into the sky, embracing the fire once again. The three of us swirled around each other time and again but none of us tried to burn each other. It was too risky. Then I felt a strange sensation wash over me. I lifted my hands and held them straight out in front of me. I could see the wave of energy form and it spread until Bashire was shoved out of the sky. I could hear him screaming as he went down. One look and I knew that hitting the earth hadn't killed him. He was back up and in the air again in seconds. It was those seconds that allowed me to close in on Madison.
"Do you feel it yet, Madison?" I screamed. "Do you feel the fire that will burn your blood?"
"Threats from the King!" she cackled, flying faster. "Come and get me if you can, little Eric!"
I was about to fly faster when Bashire collided with me in the air. We both spiraled around each other all the way to the ground. He landed on his back while I landed on my feet. He was up again in an instant and those hateful yellow eyes were fixed on me again. He smirked as we circled each other on foot. The others were too far away to know what was happening, and I worried that Madison was using this time to hurt more of them.
"I'd forgotten how clever you are, Eric," Bashire said as if he were the old Bashire that I had loved. "That's quite a gift you displayed in the sky."
"I'm sure it was wonderful for you," I hissed. "You've gone insane, Bashire. You have to be put down."
"Put down?" he mocked. "Eric, your biggest weakness is the belief that you are invincible. I got to you once. It's only a matter of time before I finish what I started."
"So finish it!" I screamed and launched myself at him.
He was ready for me though and he took to the air again. I wasted no time following him. I was on him in seconds. I grabbed him by his neck and slammed him to the ground again. I saw the earth give as he landed, but he was in the air in seconds to chase after me. Once again that curious sensation spread through me and I sent another energy wave against him, slamming him to the ground again. This time he wasn't up so quickly, but he was in the air moments later. Murder was in his eyes as he flew at me.
"You'll die, Eric Maxwell!" he screamed.
I sent another energy wave at him and down he went again. This time I flew toward him with all of my might until I could feel the fire inside of me threaten to overtake me. I blasted out at him with the fire as hard as I could, but he was gone! He'd vanished just like Madison, and I was left to stare at the mangled ground where he'd been.
I landed and stood there for what seemed forever waiting for him to attack me again, but he didn't come. The sun was coming up again and I knew that the others were headed back to what we now called "Home". I took to the sky once again and flew straight there. When I arrived and got up to the board room everyone was there. They looked haggard and beaten, but they were all very happy to see me.
"Eric! We were worried," cried Franklin as he came to me and wrapped me in his arms. His mind was still screaming about Daniel, and I felt myself shudder as I saw his burning image again in my own mind.
"They'll pay, Franklin," I said, holding him out at arm's length. "I promise."
"I know they will, Eric," he said as bloody tears ran down his face.
We went and sat down in the corner of the room. My fledglings sensed my distress and huddled around us. That was how we fell asleep. It was in that position that Bashire found us when the sun went down. He was standing over us bathed in that glowing nimbus. I snatched the fire within me but it was too late. Andrew was on his feet, a nimbus around him as well.
Fire met fire as Bashire and Andrew tried to burn each other. The room began to shake as the amount of power intensified until Andrew was screaming. I was on my feet and unleashing the fire against Bashire as I watched my fledgling explode and become ash that blew through the room. I heard Bashire laugh and then I had him. I could see his clothes begin to smoke. He must have known that it was the end for him if he stayed there because in the next instant the windows behind me were exploding as he flew through them and into the night.
I flew after him, Andrew's screams still fresh in my mind. There was no way I would let his death go unpunished that night. Bashire was going to die or I would die trying to kill him. He was fast, but I was determined. I sent out wave after wave of energy against him and finally he fell from the sky. We were above the very cemetery that Miguel lived in.
When I landed on the ground in front of him, Brendan, Holden and Franklin landed at my side. Bashire hissed and took several steps back. Then Juan's morphed form was charging at us. Before I could even react he was nothing but moving ash, and Brendan's mind rejoiced. Bashire's eyes grew large as he backed further away. We advanced on him and he took to the sky and was gone just like that.
"Damn it!" I screamed, making everyone around me grab their ears. "This has got to end! He has to die!"
"We'll kill him, Eric," said Franklin as I heard a familiar insane cackle fill the air.
I looked up to see Madison flying around us in a circle. That insane smile was on her face and she was morphed in all of her vamped out glory. I growled as I flung myself into the air. She tried to fly away but I grabbed her ankle and yanked her back. The fire inside of me was stronger than it had ever been and her screams as she burned were music to my ears. My throbbing heart quickened at the sound of her agony. She was finally paying. It took longer than I expected and I watched as the fire traveled over her body. Slowly her body became ash and blew away. Madison was gone. The hateful female line had been destroyed along with Juan and his hateful evil Forsaken. That only left Bashire.
It was as if thinking of his hateful named summoned him and he was standing in front of me again. That sick smile was on his face and I unleashed the fire. He sidestepped me, though. Then I heard Franklin scream and my blood boiled with misery tinged anger. My brother burst into flames beside me and all I could do was scream as Bashire laughed in my face.
Into the night he soared, and I followed. His laughing urged me on and I flew faster than I ever had before. We raced across the sky and I was vaguely aware of Holden flying after us. I desperately wanted him to turn back. I didn't want to lose another that I loved that night. The thought of it made the fire inside of me burn even hotter and I was afraid that it would destroy me.
We landed at least ten miles from the
cemetery. He stood fifty feet from me, and I could see the orange nimbus that
surrounded him. I thought of Paul and the way he'd died and the fire inside of
me grew more intense. My eyes were burning when I thought of Daniel and Brock.
That was when I noticed that the asphalt under my feet was getting softer. I was
As I thought of Franklin and Andrew I cried out, throwing my head back and wailing into the night. The fire became so intense that I had to let it out. The buildings around us exploded and fire was everywhere, lighting up the night. I looked at Bashire and saw fear in his eyes for the first time. I began to slowly walk toward him as he backed away. More and more of the buildings, trees and cars around us exploded into flames that burned almost white with their heat. The asphalt grew softer and softer as I walked. Then Holden was beside me and I saw myself in his mind.
I wasn't surrounded by an orange nimbus. I was a man made of fire! It curled around my body and kissed the night sky. Everything around me was on fire as I walked. Cars exploded as they came down the street, and building after building became rubble after each thunderous explosion. I had been pushed to the point of no return and I didn't know that I'd ever be able to rein this power in again. Bashire was still ahead of me, and I wanted him dead more than anything else in the entire world.
Artificial light filled the sky above us and I heard the sound of the helicopters as they flew over my head. Holden looked up at them and one by one they exploded. Their burning hulls dropped from the sky all around us. People were screaming in agony as the fire raged on and I couldn't stop it. I was filled with terror and rage and the only way that I believed I would ever gain control again was to burn Bashire until there was nothing left of him.
"Bashire!" I screamed, my voice booming into the night and overpowering even the loudest of explosions. I noticed that Holden flinched, but he didn't grab his ears.
Bashire turned to face me when I was no more than five feet from him. He looked at me and for the tiniest second I saw the man that I had loved. I saw the vampire that I had sworn would have my heart for eternity. My heart was shredded as I thought of who he was and who he used to be. He stepped into my arms and wrapped his arms around me.
"You have won," he said, and our lips touched in a death kiss.
Fire surged through him and I heard him screaming as he clawed at his throat. His hair began to melt and those yellow eyes turned red with the flames inside his head. I stood and watched as Bashire Par became nothing but ash, and agony like I'd never known washed over me. I wept as I stared at the space where he had stood.
"Father," said Holden as he reached me. "We must go. Father, please!"
The desperation in his tone got my attention. I looked into his mind and saw that I was no longer the man of fire. Fire raged around us, but I was just Eric Maxwell again. I did see the white streaks in my hair though. I allowed him to lift me into the air as I remembered my Bashire. I remembered everything about him from the very first time I'd seen him in the foyer of House Doran. I'd never seen a Forsaken in the flesh before and I remembered his strange scent. It was violence and destruction all wrapped into a male scent that drove me wild. I'd wanted to burn him on sight when I realized what he was.
Then I remembered the night he was turned and the look of pure adoration in his eyes as he told me to drink from him and know him the way I would have others know me. I sobbed as I remembered the visions that I'd seen in his blood. The love he'd had for his nephew even after he'd been bonded a millennia ago. Bashire had been a perfect vampire when his sleep had ended. He had loved me with every fiber of his being and I had soaked it up like a sponge.
I remembered the day we stood on the grounds of House Maxwell for the first time together. Brock and Derrick were there with us and we talked about what we thought would be our wondrous estate for eternity. My heart cried in agony as I remembered the night that he'd begged me not to start the war with the rogues. I remembered the beginning of the war with the humans and how Bashire had begged me to see reason and go into hiding.
Then I remembered the night we had thought he'd been killed. They'd struck him with so much force that I'd believed there was no way he could have survived. I saw his broken body lying on the ground in Washington, and I wailed again. As I thought of the torture he'd endured at the hands of the government I thought I would go insane. This was too much. I couldn't deal with this agony.
I didn't sleep for days after we returned to the boardroom. Holden and Gabriel stayed at my side, but they slept while I watched and thought of all of those that were lost. It was all because of my cursed blood. I was the reason for all of it, and I couldn't stand it. I said nothing to anyone. They all talked to me, but I didn't say a word. I couldn't. I knew that if I opened my mouth, I would start screaming. This would surely drive me insane.
Then I began to think a little more clearly. I thought about how much danger they were all in with me around them. Bashire was gone, yes. That didn't mean that others wouldn't come eventually. More destruction would be in their future if I didn't leave them. And what they have if I was gone? Laws that they couldn't understand and emptiness to go with it. There was nothing holding the laws in place anymore. What did I care if they made twenty fledglings or four? What did it matter now?
Sleep. It was the only way for me to let my heart calm down. I had to sleep, but it wouldn't be like the last time. A hundred years wasn't near enough to forget. It had to be longer, and I had to leave them with something before I went into my slumber. They had to know what was running through my head.
Weeks went by as I planned what to say to them. I wanted them to understand that they were in danger if I stayed with them. Already there was a house being built that I didn't want. I would order it torn down if they tried to put my name on it. Then I knew that I could sleep in that house undisturbed. I could do it! There was nothing stopping me. As the house came closer and closer to completion I warmed to the idea of sleeping under it for at least a thousand years.
In the days that came after the showdown between me and Bashire the news carried stories about terrorists setting fire to more than half of San Juan. Nothing was ever said about vampires, and I hoped that no one knew the truth. If they didn't then my plan would succeed. They never had to know about me. I could sleep through the ages and never let anyone know of me save for those that loved me.
There were many voices to argue against my decision. Holden and Gabriel's voices were the loudest. In the end it was Brendan who got them to understand. He knew why my heart was in such chaos. I held him close to me and told him over and over again that I was doing it for them because I loved them. He held me in his arms and told me to sleep.
The announcement that I was lifting the laws that had only recently been written got little attention compared to the news that I would be sleeping for so long. They argued all the way to the morning I laid myself in the coffin under the new house that wasn't near as magnificent as the first. I said all that I had to say to each of them, telling them all how much I loved them before I closed my eyes and entered my slumber.