Eternal Vigilance – Book 1 – From Deep Within the Earth
After a century-long Sleep, Tynan Llywelyn has awoken to find the world he once knew obliterated by a brutal war of epic proportions. In a new apocalytic society bitterly divided by magic and technology, the Tyst Empire has found that a hundred years of global domination is not enough to sate their thirst for power. They have discovered the secret of the vampire race and have designed a plan to seize their own sinister form of immortality with the help of an ancient vampiric god. The rebel uprising known as the Phuree have obtained the knowledge of Lord Cardone’s plans and have allied themselves with the remaining Immortal race. The powerful Phuree oracle, Nahalo, has had a vision that in Tynan alone lies the power to defeat the vampiric god and the dictatorship. Cast in violence and conspiracy into the mist of the bloodshed, in a world he is still struggling to define, Tynan must make the harrowing decision to save the world he so bitterly detests or stand and watch as humanity is destroyed by a primordial evil beyond all imagining…
A deep rumbling, like the chaos of a storm rising from far within the Earth’s interior clawed its way to the surface. From near the center where it was always warm, it bridged time and space, traveling through the fluxing structure of existence, caring little for the restraints of our defiant physical laws. I could feel it reverberating through the thin blades of grass beneath my arms and legs. I dug my fingernails into the rich black soil my palms rest against and stared up at the gray dome above me. It churned and writhed with the wind, spinning in upon itself like a massive silver serpent squeezing the life out of the atmosphere.
The dragons of the land were awakening. Wrapped in mist and fire, slate scales of blood and jet, they rose in a warning of chaos and inevitable change. Their cry was a call to the very core of the universe to return to the forgotten altar where they were once worshiped, where blood was spilt to sate their demand for balance, and hymns were sung in their name on moonlit eves. My reason refused to accept such a possibility: that beasts that had once incited both fervor and fear in the eyes of my grandfather could return. Every nerve within me screamed with a primal fear that I could not deny. Paralyzed, I lay still and watched and waited.
The winged serpents roared again and reality quaked. The vibrations traveled from the packed soil and sediment to a place lodged deep within me. The sky began to melt, the contours of the gray clouds shifted away from one another to recede in the wake of an engulfing darkness. I gasped as a piercing cold crashed into me as if the sea reached out to consume my soul. Like quicksand, it drew me down into its womb, pushing the air from my lungs in a hollow soundless scream.
The sky became a distant sliver before my eyes. The ghost of a damning unearthly wind howled aggressively in my ears, the distant sunlight becoming icy and fractured. For a moment I drifted, my will leaving, entranced by the fading beauty of the world I had once known.
The dragons shrieked again, sending wave after wave of shearing vibrations through the very marrow of my bones. I struggled against the invisible pressure that held me captive. My heart careened against my ribs until I thought they would shatter. The palms of my hands slammed down against something hard and smooth as I momentarily regained the control of my arms. I gasped. Instinct, bred of war, moved my hand to reach for my sword, but it was no longer there. Panic! Desolation! I gasped for air as the universe collapsed into my chest…
My eyes fluttered open.
Darkness. Dense, formless shadows pressed down on me with the weight of a corpse. All sense of dimension was lost to me in the pitch dark. My stomach twisted in a nauseous delirium, my teeth chattering uncontrollably as if from a severe hypothermia. Blind in my instinct to fight, I flailed about, searching for a way out of the smothering nothingness. My fists collided with a hard, flat surface— thick marble— to my left and then to my right. In a fleeting moment of clarity, I paused, the silence a high-pitched wail within my skull. I pressed my palms against the flat surfaces to either side of me. A heartbeat passed through my fingertips and into the stone. Confused rage engulfed my soul as the second of hesitation snapped like a matchstick. I slammed my body against the walls containing me, fighting furiously against my prison. Whatever sanity might have remained vanished in a hellish, unearthly shriek as I punched upwards with all of my strength.
Something exploded above me. The air rang with the sudden impact, a thick cloud of dust and hard, tiny shards of stone raining down upon my face and arms. Coughing and sputtering blindly, I pulled myself from the coffin, falling to the floor with an unceremonious thud. For a long while, I lay curled on the icy stone floor shivering, my arms wrapped tightly around my bent legs. My lungs ached from the dust and grit that filled the air around me, settling like a thin veil of ancient holy gauze upon my skin and hair. My body convulsed uncontrollably with pain, my mind whimpering, racing without rhyme or reason, clawing for the fragments of dreams that now spiraled away from my grasp, shreds of white silk in a cyclone wind.
It was cold. It was silent.
Gradually, my heart began to ease, and with it, my mind. My muscles loosened, making me weak and queasy as the adrenaline rushed through my veins and into my stomach.
Slowly, I opened my eyes again. I lay at the base of a massive stone sarcophagus. The tiny tomb was windowless and drenched in shadow. Angles and planes were one and the same, shadows converging in the same ephemeral fashion, swept to a dusty corner to be forgotten. It was a strange archaic beauty of a time long past. I marveled at my surroundings; it was like I was seeing the features of the room by moonlight. Time had not dulled my preternatural vision and I found myself lost within the cold alien beauty. A shudder breezed through me. Icy recognition gripped my heart as I separated the remaining tendrils of dreams, wrapped like whispers of cobwebs, from reality.
Chunks of what had been the lid of the sarcophagus lay scattered around me in dusty, irreparable ruins. With trembling fingers, I reached up and grasped the sides, using their solid strength to pull myself unsteadily to my feet. A dull ache invaded my legs when I attempted to use them, the muscles hurriedly repairing and rejuvenating themselves even as I rose. It made me wonder just how much time had passed since I had crawled into that box. It was a strange and distant sensation, that of my own tissue knitting together in fibrous strands, becoming stronger and stronger with each second. I listened to the blood rushing through my ears, simply learning to breathe again.
With great care, I turned from the coffin, my gaze drifting along the unadorned stone walls to finally rest on the small chamber door. Gradually, my memories fell about me like sand sifting through the cracks in an Egyptian temple. The truth was sickeningly sharp, twisting my innards with swarming hornet images. The spell I had cast upon myself was supposed to have been permanent; I was not to have awoken to the world ever again.
Anger ripped through me. I staggered towards the door and, with trembling fingers, traced the outline of the crucifix chiseled on the stone. My fingers danced delicately across the intricate and ancient curves. How skeletal the digits appeared: animated bones bathed in false blue light. My eyes traveled over my wrist to my arm. So thin, the flesh, an albino white, almost transparent, marred by ropes of blue veins that wrapped around my arm like earthworms. In much the same way that a starving prisoner forgets the pleasures of food, an aching numbness had replaced the unquenchable Thirst that had bound me to my madness. I could barely even remember the smell of blood or the taste of the flesh that held it. My parched, swollen tongue played over my sharp fangs, testing the tips in search of my past.
The remnants of my former paranoia returned, stalking the edges of my mind; savage little beasts. How long had I slept and what remained of the world above? The human race was a hive of industrious, destructive insects. I had seen revolutions spawned of revolutions, bloody wars quickened from the ashes of their predecessors. The centuries, flying past me as quickly as mortal decades, had elevated and leveled empires, cultures, and technologies, all the while dictating a silent directive of slow planetary death. The fabric of the world I had left behind had been riddled with a stifling fear. Layers upon layers of devious demons crept up behind the sleeping denizens of civilization, whispering their black intentions in riddles even a child could discern. No one listened, though, to the ever-pervasive moan of global societal collapse. No one dared to breathe the truth. Scream and the glass might shatter; sigh and the house might blow down. They were too enamored of watching the dirty whirlpool spiraling down deeper and deeper to a place of no return.
I had tried to observe it all from the detached place that all Immortals watch life. At least, it should have been a detached place. I was too young to have had my heart grow numb and, possessed with the idealism and naivety of innocence, embraced my new path with every ounce of my soul. I tried to change the world. I tried and failed, and after a mere two hundred and seventy years of Immortality, had found myself driven to the brink of madness by my own powers and an embittered disillusionment.
I had always longed for the aloof arrogance that seemed to come so naturally to most vampires. Where the hearts of others of my kind turned to stone as the centuries passed, mine only became tender, my antipathy for all that was vicious and cruel about the world nearly crushing my spirit. As my powers progressed and my unique ability to absorb the memories of my prey evolved, the atrocities inflicted, whether with malice or ignorance, and the sadness of humanity became a mantle of broken glass I donned each time I fed. I could not understand how my kindred could swim in excess and gluttony, when everywhere I looked there was chaos and pain.
At times I hated them; at times I envied them. They saw the world as a tediously simple game in which they partook only for mild amusement. A world that they ruled with ease and without conscience or remorse. Mortals were random senseless creatures—their lack of unity their undoing. I had never been able to see it that way, always too swept up in the philosophical debate of man versus vampire, predator versus prey, and the great evolution of the universe’s preordained plan. The others had said I retained too much of my own ancient sense of humanity. They said it would be my downfall.
My pulse pounded in my ears as I considered the possible fate of my own race in the cruel fist of Time. From my prison deep within the Earth, there was simply no way of knowing what had become of them.
I sank to the floor, barely able to draw breath, my mind racing over the infinite scrolls of confusion: a madman debating truth with his own reflection. The world I had turned my back on had been polluted and tortured, the ranks of humanity having lost complete control of their own governments. Societal voices had been buried beneath the screech of propaganda and loyalist contributions, technology evolving around them at such an infinite speed that the line between fact and fiction had nearly faded completely.
What if time had not taught the lessons all empires must learn in one dawning era or another? Was it conceivable that the world still grew outside, more gluttonous and numb and silent than the patronizingly pacified generations before? My heart slowed and plummeted, a stone ricocheting off the rotten gullet of a dead tree. Red tears of anguished rage streamed down my gaunt white cheeks as I pounded the walls like a child denied. NO! No. Nooo.
It was useless.
I was awake.
* * *
Venting the last of my blind rage and frustration upon the crypt door, I made my way up the maze of the catacombs. I followed my instincts without question, traveling the ruined stone pathway that would lead me to an uncertain destiny. There was obvious destruction to the narrow corridor. Here and there the ceiling or wall had given way, a record of a catastrophic explosion had shaken the Earth years before. Tree roots arched from the holes in the walls, warped and snaking tentacles of some petrified sea anomaly. Small iconic statues and cremation urns that had once adorned alcoves carved into the walls lay shattered at my feet. The soft crunching the fragments made beneath my weathered black boots was enough to quiet my internal fretting for a while. I focused on the sound and clawed through the debris.
Time had been my enemy. I had grown incredibly weak and feeble, so human. A breath of fresh air seemed as mythical as ambrosia as I clambered over a gnarled mass of tree roots that bridged the walls of the dank, gritty passageway in their search for nutrients in rotting bones. I neared the entrance to the hall, and a raucous symphony of crickets and the deliberate scurrying of beetles replaced the dull munching of earthworms. Insects. How strange that they meant freedom.
I burst through the last of the doors and stumbled, gasping, into the thick night air. After being deprived of light or sound for so long, my senses were set ablaze, burning and crackling as the material world in all its crystalline chaos exploded into my body. The moon’s brilliance burned into my eyes like a prison yard floodlight, the gentle hum of tree frogs reverberating like the aftershock of gunfire. I squinted into the night, hands clutching the sides of my head until, slowly, the night began to retreat. The cemetery into which I had emerged was in ruins.
Headstones lay shattered upon a butchered field of mud and upturned grass. The ancient oaks that had once stood guard over the quietude of the cemetery were badly scarred and beaten. The largest one had been split in two, its limbs rotting upon the ground in front of me. I staggered forward and dropped to my knees, my chest rising and falling as I fought to bring the sweet and cold night air into my lungs, rich with uprooted earth and cleansing rain.
I felt a presence in close range. It was human, male, and very young. I blinked, surveying the space around me. A childish anger filled me at the thought of being disturbed so soon. Mixed with a violent outrage at the bleakness surrounding me, my body became rigid and tense. In my weakened state, I hesitated to trust my senses. Even though my instincts told me this boy was indeed mortal, I could not be sure. I lowered my breathing, tucking my thoughts deep inside me just in case something else might be listening.
The mortal was getting closer. I thought of retreating back inside the mausoleum, but a heavy and foreboding pressure stayed me with a predatory will of its own. I could smell his scent; the rich, salty perfume of sweat intermingled with the pungent copper of young blood. My chest constricted, pain arcing out through my abdomen and throat. I fell forward, barely able to stifle the scream that struggled to free itself from my soul.
“Hey, mister? You alright?” a quavering adolescent voice accosted my shaking form.
I hesitated for a moment, my fingers digging into the dirt in front of me. His voice was full of fear and jaded anticipation. His mind was an open and unguarded book. The youth’s primal urge to flee conflicted with his instinct that told him I might have something worth stealing and, if nothing else, it was a tale to tell to the disarray of fractured friends he would return to later that evening. Without actually looking at him, my face lowered towards the earth from which I had come. I could see him within my mind: a battered youth, painfully thin with starvation. His clothes were ragged and heavily mended with crude hand stitching in raw hemp thread. His hair hung across his smudged tan features in jagged bleached locks. His body was rigid with tension, his gaze unwavering as he pointed the long cylindrical barrel of a scarred AK-47 at me. He was a fierce and proud spirit trapped within the battered decaying flesh of a human being, scared but too proud to buckle and be warmed by charity.
Curiosity finally overwhelmed him. The youth jumped from the large chunk of stone where he was perched and approached me cautiously. His worn army boots made soft sucking sounds in the mud with each step. He stopped an arm’s length away, sure that I was too weak to be a threat. I lifted my eyes, turning my head towards him only enough to catch him in my line of vision.
His gasp punctured the steady moan of the wind, sharp and short. The shallow slate pools of his eyes widened in confused fear. From his mind burst forth the horrifying image of me as I knelt in the mud and stones. I had become a monstrous construction of white waxen angles and hollow sunken caverns that stretched as purple bruises beneath my dark hazel and gold eyes. What once served as hair stuck to my scalp in dust-matted locks of dark yellow streaked with brown, bits of rope and twine. It hung over my eyes as a disheveled curtain. My skeletal frame was a craven thing, all but naked, draped in the remnants of my ragged clothing. The torn fabric of my paper-thin shirt lifted in the wind with a life of its own.
A pounding rhythm echoed from deep within the youth’s chest, resonating in my sensitive ears. I rose, dreamlike, a mummified creature of creaking joints and sinew. The young man’s feet seemed cemented to the mud and stone. Even as I approached him, the sleek black outline of his weapon still saluted me, though it trembled in his grip. A cold, predatory intensity locked his gaze to mine as my hand reached towards the gun.
Though he was no innocent soul, his confusion was heartbreaking in its honesty. Such silent appeal was lost on me as the numbness that had replaced my starvation retreated. Empathy for humanity had no righteous place before the primal demand of the Thirst and my conscience was crushed to dust by its power by the mad current of the young mortal’s pulse drowning out my newfound reality.
I reached out to him with my mind, threading tendrils of my will through his to coax him into submission. For him, I sculpted a new image of myself, one that I plucked from my own memory, when I was flawless and beautiful. His eyes widened, his lips parting in an unspoken question, and I knew that what he now saw before him was unexplainable and holy—a vision of a god resurrected. I reached towards him, a living statue of contorted wax, and removed the gun from his shaking hands, letting it drop heavily to the ground. It struck the weathered stone with a crack that reminded me of splintering bone.
We stood mere inches apart, our scents blended: stale earth and salty sweat. The smell caused my heart to contract painfully. My fingers brushed the sides of his arms. Even clothed in the thick, decades-old army jacket, I could feel the electrifying tension buried beneath the subtle warmth of his skin. Every ounce of his being screamed out, but as his thin, pale lips parted, slack and dazed, the only sound that escaped was his shallow breath.
I wrapped him in the archaic cold of my embrace. His will was mine to mold, though his pulse still made his skin burn and vibrate with a futile fierceness. My right hand traveled slowly up to lodge firmly on the back of his neck and I lowered my mouth to the soft flesh of his throat. The agony of my starvation exploded to the surface of my own essence, devouring what little reason still clung weakly to my mind. My fangs plunged deep into his flesh through skin and muscle and tendon to rape the tough vessel of life force that ran through him. Blood, hot and coppery, erupted in my mouth, spilling over my tongue, molten shards so sinfully wicked and delicious and taboo. I lost myself in the sound of his heart caught in the draft of my kiss.
I let the beast consume me.
Serpentine, I coiled my arms around him tighter and tighter, my body shaking in the orgasmic pleasure that I had long since forgotten; an aching, spiraling ascension that rendered me merciless as it surged through the fibers of my body. Sugary, electric impulses, an arcing lightning, thrilled me as his heart slowed. His memories flooded through me in a tidal wave of unfettered emotion: his orphaned childhood amongst the ruins of the city, terrified scavenging for food between derelict buildings, a brutal indoctrination of beatings into the only family he ever knew—pain, anger, hatred, confusion.
I fought to dismiss them, to keep them from invading the deeper parts of my soul. As my body filled and replenished its barren reserves, his clung tenaciously to life, but now it was slipping away, strangely saddening me. I suppose it was the realization that nothing had changed. I hadn’t slept away the evil dreams as I had so longed to. The demon had not been exorcised. I still took life and gave nothing in return.
I was still a vampire.
I pulled back from the gaping wound torn in my stranger’s throat. It was nothing neat and clean as I might have done in the past. Starved and frenzied, I had ravaged his body. I could see the last threads of existence leaving his eyes, a small white receipt swept away upon wispy currents of wind. What he might have seen in those last few moments would forever remain a mystery to me. I only hoped that it had not been a vision of me.
“Thank you,” I whispered in a voice inaudible to mortal ears and I graced the soft, dirt-streaked skin of his cheek with a simple kiss.
I let him slip from my alabaster arms, which were already healing with the power of the new living blood that coursed through them. He crumpled at my feet, an existence soon to be forgotten.
It began to rain. For a long while, head bowed in prayer, I stood vigil over the broken body until the soft cries of his friends reached me over the storm. I knelt beside the youthful form of my onetime lover and gently ran my fingertips over his eyes, lowering the lids that were now a pale gray to match his stare.
I walked quickly towards the city.
• • • • •
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