Prologue

My anguished screams buffeted the walls of the great hall as I strained against the heavy black iron that bound me to the altar. The biting and burning smell of seared flesh in the iron rings was barely a distraction compared to the absolute devastation that traveled along my back. I writhed from the horrific pain as my right wing was brutally hacked and chopped away. The chains clanked from my struggles. I watched in horror as my bloodied and feathered wing fell to the golden floor like so much dead meat.

'Mother, please!' I begged through stinging hot tears and blurred eyes. My vision cleared enough to see her bury her sobs in my father's chest.

My father, the king, had announced my solemn punishment promptly. My brother Lucif had made it his business to see he wasn't alone in his misery. It had been many millennia since this punishment had been given, and now I was the victim of my father's wrath.

The Slegna were quick with their duties as they rounded the altar and pushed me against the cold granite. They made short work of my remaining wing as they continued their vicious work. My screams shattered the silence.

'Witness your wrath father!' I howled as I watched him divert his eyes to the floor.

I felt the loss of weight as my left wing fell. It was done to me as it had been to my younger brother, Lucif. He had interfered with Moses as much as I had with Kalob. I would be exiled to the human world to live out eternity until my father thought better of it.

I watched as my mother pulled from his embrace and stepped away. She moved down the golden steps toward me.

'It is forbidden!' My father's voice echoed with a thunderous roar.

For the first time, I watched her defy him. She healed my wounds with a wave of her hand and I felt the weight of the irons leave me. She turned to face the man I called my father.

'You forget your place!' The violence and strength of her words shook the hall like a tremor in reality. Age old dust fell from the ceiling of the structure to the floor.

'As you have cursed them, I now curse you. You will remain as frozen as your heart.' Her words were absolute.

'You will receive my forgiveness when you have given them yours! The worlds are now truly forgotten.'

I watched as crystal formed around my father's feet. It surged around and up his legs as if swallowing him. The crystal moved with purpose and soon encased him completely. His expression of rage and surprise was distorted behind the surfaces of the octagonal facets.

'Would you go to him Asher?' My mother turned and laid her hand on my shoulder.

'Yes.' My voice was weak, and she bent to hear my words.

'So be it.' I felt the butterfly touch of her lips against my forehead.

- - - - - - -

Chapter 1 - The Fallen

As I fell to Earth, my brother Lucif took Kalob's blood and gave his own. The result made him what you call 'Vampire'. We lived happily together for more than seven hundred years, before the villagers set our house ablaze. They came at dawn, leaving us no escape. If Kalob went into the daylight he would die.

The fire would not kill me, but would my precious lover. I remember watching as the intense heat began to scald his flesh. Yelled curses behind the roar of flame were the backdrop to my heart's devastation. I remember the horrific screams that escaped Kalob. I held him, and gazed into his eyes until he was only ash. You hairless monkeys turned my love and joy into grey powdery death.

Night fell. I healed, and rose from beneath the rubble with a hatred never before felt. I killed everyone in Sodom that night. I swept through with such exquisite destruction that they still tell the tale, albeit incorrectly. It was not God's wrath; it was mine. Man's intolerance brought forth such an anguish-fueled rage in me that they had no hope. It was not punishment for forbidden love; it was because of the love they took from me. Kalob and I had been this city's first inhabitants, and I would be its last. Their blood paved my path into oblivion.

We are not Angels; we are the Slegna. You silly humans always did get things twisted around. We were old when the universe was young, and my mother, was the first. We call her the first, because we know of nothing that came before her. Only she can remember the beginnings of time.

My father was the second. It has never been mentioned or questioned, as to how much time passed before his arrival. My mother's 'superiority' and 'status' seemed to be a dent in his ego. Together they had many sons, and I was but one of them. I was not the oldest or the youngest. I was a middle child of thousands.

I wandered the night for decades, catching glimpses of my brother's work. Christianity had been his biggest joke. Man was so gullible. It still brings a smile to my face, that man could believe that my father gave one of his progeny, as a 'gift'. Our presence in this world is our punishment. The man Jesus was only that, a man. He was a nice guy with a valuable message. Some might even call him the Mozart of peace, but he was not Slegna. Humans do love to spin a tale. Your 'Jesus' was only one of many that, sadly, got nailed. So, before you scream 'Blasphemer!' and ready your pitchforks, settle yourselves, and let me tell my tale.

Man was but a fleeting obsession of my father's. The rock called Earth formed naturally. Given the infinity of time, anything is possible, and so you came to be as you are now. The impossible made possible. That most can't comprehend the chaotic pattern was never our concern. What kindness that my father held for you, now lay trapped in a crystal prison. You were on your own.

You were, however, off limits. The worlds were my father's toys, and not to be touched. He would give a little nudge here, or a push there, as he watched you like bugs in a jar. What is this 'Hell' place you keep rambling on about? I've never seen it, and I have been to many places. Man created that imaginary place, not Slegna. I've got news for you. If you are supposed burn in Hell for all eternity for not following someone's conception of 'rules', save for a handful, you've all got a fiery future ahead of you.

Lucif was thrown down for his interference and love of Moses. Unfortunately, my father's rage extended past Lucif and punished Moses as well. My poor brother never had the time that I was fortunate enough to spend with Kalob. My bother's stint with Moses was painfully brief. I don't blame him for his bitterness.

Lucif had done me the favor of giving my lover immortality. It was a blessing and a curse. The centuries went by so quickly that I barely gave them measure. That is, until Kalob was gone. There's not enough blood in the world to paint that portrait of sorrow.

Joy seems to be measured so much more quickly than pain. Then again, living among you, I've learned pain is what you cling to. I can't say I've handled it any better.

I left the cool nights and hot days of Sodom for what is now known as North America. The absence of my wings only stopped me from re-entering Haven. Yes I mean Haven, not Heaven, not that any of you would ever see it. I was still able to move in your world as I normally would. Eventually, I found the most desolate, insect-infested, sultry piece of swampland I could find. I thought man would never want it.

I went into the ground, slept, and watched fleeting images of civilizations as they rose and fell. As I lay in the earth for many centuries, I hoped my heartache would abate. Then I slept longer, waiting for my father's forgiveness. The ache in my heart remained, and my father's forgiveness never came.

You made my resting place into Disney World: an amusement park. I would have burrowed deeper, but the music drew me up. Late one night, I pulled myself from the mud, and cried out in the darkness. There was much to learn and experience in this new and fragile time.

So much had changed. You had discovered science and built a new world with it. I felt the mud dry on my skin as I floated above you. No, my wings were not necessary for flight. Wings gave us the ability to travel between the planes, and now only my father's forgiveness would take me home. He still stood frozen in his crystalline prison, brooding. Remember, he is a very stubborn man.

I moved through the night and into the surrounding city of Orlando. Finding a park fountain I bathed and removed the centuries of decay from my skin and hair. My clothing had rotted away, ages ago, during my slumber. I lay submerged in the water, writhing about until the last remnants of filth left my body. Finally standing, I watched the water travel down my naked white flesh. It felt good to be clean again.

Even my white, unclothed skin didn't seem to draw attention. I walked the streets seeing discarded people and refuse. The people of this time didn't seem to notice if one was different from the other. I watched you walk past indifferently, your only concern being the wallet in your pocket. You completely ignored the most unfortunate of your own kind. It was a sad comfort that this much was still familiar to me. Your apathy is infinite.

The music called me. A rhythmic heartbeat and screaming melody pulled at my chest as the vibrations seemed to tap my soul. I turned down an alley and moved toward the chaotic sound.

It wasn't long before I found one of my brother's creations taking blood from someone he had lured there. He looked to be about my size and build and I needed clothes. The vampire interrupted his meal long enough to turn my way and stood frozen in terror. He threw away his meal and ran with incredible speed. I chased him as the blur of buildings and concrete edged my vision. I passed by and stopped in front of him.

The impact against my body broke several of his bones with a sickening crunch as he bounced backward and fell to the pavement. His eyes raged at me.

'What are you?' he hissed the words as he struggled to put more distance between us.

'I am nude, and will have your clothing. Whether you give them to me, or I take them from your corpse, makes no difference to me. I would prefer them, however, without stains of blood.'

In the time it takes to create thought, I closed the distance between us and knelt beside him.

'Choose.'

I could smell the metallic, sweet, blood on his breath as I glared into the darkness of his eyes. He began fumbling with his shirt buttons. I stood and backed a few feet away.

'Faster bloodsucker; it is only pain.' My cold words earned another brief glare as he hastened his movement. He pulled the shirt off and tossed it to me.

The vampire struggled, finally making it to his feet. His body was repairing itself, and I watched for any indication that he might try to run or attack. He was beautiful but, unlike the life that surged beneath my skin, his held only death. My flesh was a vibrant white and contrasted against his sickly pallor. It wasn't a dingy color. It was more of an ashen reminder of what it used to be, now hidden too long from the light. His coloring reminded me of Kalob, and my heart ached.

I watched the muscles roll across his abdomen as he kicked off his shoes and began removing his pants. His frame was not packed with muscle, though it was certainly there. He was almost wraith-like in shape, looking as though he had missed too many meals before being changed.

This vampire hadn't been made by my brother. The scent of Slegna blood was very faint. It had been diluted many times before it found its way into his veins, though I could see why he was picked. He was striking; his green eyes engaged me with every glance as his sinewy form rushed to its work.

He stood in front of me, wearing only his boxers, and tossed me his pants. I pulled them on and moved forward. I knelt and pulled on the shoes, keeping my eyes locked with his.

Moving faster than his vision could perceive I appeared beside him. I pressed my shoulder against his and ran my fingers through the dark-brown hair that fell past his shoulders. I circled him tightly, seductively, and paused on his other side. His only movement was the turn of his head to keep me in sight.

I leaned in, pressed my lips to his ear, and whispered, 'Who made you, vampire?'

'Jeremy.' The amber tones of his voice were strained and betrayed him. I could hear his fear.

'And who made Jeremy?' I breathed the words into his ear.

'Seth.' His answer was a stutter of absolute contained terror.

'Is he old, this Seth?' I began my circle of motion around him again, stopping to face him directly. Barely an inch separated us.

'He is the oldest in the city.' He moved his eyes to his feet, trying desperately to avoid my gaze.

I laughed out loud. The sound bounced between the buildings around us, giving it an almost hollow tone. I couldn't help finding humor in his statement. I remember watching this silly rock when it was only a spiral of dust. These creatures gave so much reverence to time.

I saw the vampire's body tense as he posed his question to me. 'Who made you?'

He was a brave one! It impressed me. Most would have tried to run before now. I ignored his question and asked another of my own.

'Where can I find Seth?' I let my lips brush against the flesh of his ear as they formed the words.

He hesitated, his breath catching in his throat. Only constrained terror could bring about such a human reaction from a vampire, and I reveled in it.

I don't need your consideration or forgiveness for my sadistic tendencies. You created them. Your hatred created the monster that I am. Your intolerance, your anger, and your unforgiving ways are what birthed the creature I am now. You've offered me nothing but anguish. How could I possibly become anything other than what you made of me?

'I could just take the information from you, but you wouldn't like it. We've been civil with each other; I see no reason to stop now.'

'He is at Big Bang. 'Filth' is playing tonight. It's about 30 blocks back the way we came. Just follow the music. It's where I was going tonight, before I stopped to feed.' I could hear the regret in his words over his decision to give me this information.

I stood back and placed my hand on his shoulder. I took the remaining damage from his still mending body. The impact had done more harm than I realized.

'What is your name, young vampire?' I smiled.

'I am David.' His voice was much calmer.

'To answer your question, David, I am not a Vampire. I was not made in the fashion you imply. I would ask you one more favor. Go to the club, after you have found clothes, and inform Seth I would speak with him. I will be there in an hour.'

David nodded.

'I'm sorry I harmed you, and brought you to your current indignity, but I had few options. I am in your debt.' I let my eyes travel the length of his nearly nude body. 'Whisper my name should you ever need me. I will be there for you. My name is Asher.'

'You're not going to kill me?' David looked at me suspiciously.

'The dead don't deliver messages.' I grinned.

'Can I go?' he asked, darting his eyes about my frame and the night. He was looking for a rebuke that wasn't coming.

I nodded my reply, 'Certainly.'

I am not sure how fast he ran from me the first time, but he seemed to move much quicker now. I watched the blur of him race away into the darker parts of the city.

I walked the city streets and looked through the windows of a variety of shops. The people of this time had made everything a convenience. The variety of stores and markets made anything a person might ever want available at a moment's notice.

I noticed my reflection in the glass under one of the stronger street lights. The tight black denim pants and matching black silk shirt stood out against my skin obscenely. My honey-brown, shoulder length hair had the slightest wave, now that it had finally dried. My black eyes peered back at me from my distorted reflection. I didn't have the striking features that many humans had; the deep blue eyes and auburn hair, but I was still handsome. My parents did not make ugly things. Looking at the many photos of men, my appearance seemed common place.

I may have slept for the last 1500 years, but I did know the goings on of the world during my slumber. I know beauty is used to sell even the most horrible of things. You called it advertising. Use this product and be beautiful. The obvious deception makes me grin.

I rose through the air and settled onto the roof of one of the taller buildings that lines your sky, and lay against the dew-coated tile roof and watched the stars. The ambient light of the city hid many of them from human eyes, but I still saw them all. The millions of pin pricks of light against a black tapestry brought back memories of Kalob.

During the last few hundred years of our time together, this had become one of our regular rituals. At least three nights a week we lay on our rooftop, gazing at the universe. The soothing touch of time had betrayed me and I felt the loss of him as if it were brand new. Sitting up, I blinked away my tears. I would not forget him, but I had already given him an ocean of tears. They served no purpose.

I heard David whisper my name, undoubtedly to Seth, and I moved. Even though I can no longer travel the planes, I can move between the spaces of this world. Whether it is air, rock, or steel, I can pass through them the same, and without disturbance. I now stood beside David.

'Good evening.'

The walls surged toward me, as nearly twenty very old and somewhat skilled vampires rushed to strike. With a thought, I sent them flying through the air and crashing against the stone walls. Eight of them rushed from their landing toward me, and again I threw them back.

'I only want to talk to you Seth,' I told him, while I circled the room, healing my attackers. I removed the damage from them with the slightest brush of my fingertips as I passed.

Skeletal iron hands held torches along the ancient stone walls of the room. The metal fists may have once held real wooden torches, but now lifted man-made replicas fed by natural gas. The effect, however, was the same. The flickering light bathed the room in a yellow and orange glow, with dancing shadows on every surface. The only true furnishing was the giant throne of cushion-covered stone that Seth sat upon. The floor was littered with satin sheets and pillows of every size and shape. These nude derelicts of life, these vampires, cowered into the corners as I continued my walk through the giant chamber.

'You have many beautiful things Sumerian.' I gave a subtle wave indicating the nude vampires that lined the walls, as I stopped and stood in front of him.

Seth's wide-set, slanted and dark eyes showed no emotion. His broad nose drew my eyes to his small upturned mouth that was surrounded by ample round cheeks. He was without doubt, Sumerian, or the last vestiges of what remained of that culture. Those distinct features, framed by his jet-black wavy hair, left no question of his lineage. The faint shudder that moved through his body as I spoke the word 'Sumerian' confirmed it.

The ancient color design of the torc around his neck hinted at tastes of a long forgotten art form. Its design seemed out of place against his small but powerful black leather clad frame. His clothes were modern, and seemed almost ridiculously out of era. It would have been no less strange to me than if you had put a ballet tutu on a Viking warrior. Even though Seth's skin had long since lost its sun-kissed bronze, the olive hue still remained. I would call him more cherub-like than beautiful.

'You insult me by coming unannounced, and invading my territory without permission, Asher. David will be punished severely for bringing you here.' I could hear the undertones of anger in his voice as it sliced through the silence. 'It is within my right, if I choose, to destroy you where you stand, according to vampire law.'

My raucous laughter buffeted the walls and fueled his anger. As the sound of my laughter filled the room, I closed the gap between us instantaneously. I held his wrists to the arms of his throne, and pushed my lips to his ear, whispering, 'I'm not bound by your law. I am not a vampire.'

An iron torch holder suddenly burst through my chest and I screamed. I let loose of Seth's wrists and struck the body guards that had attacked me from behind, backhanding them and sending them smashing into the stone walls. Seth stared back at me, glancing only for a second to the skeletal iron fist that had been plunged into my back, and now pointed its boney finger at him. The burning sensation was almost unbearable as the tissue around the iron seared and smoldered. One of the body guards had ripped a torch holder from the wall and plunged it between my shoulder blades.

'Order them to stop, or I will destroy you all,' I hissed.

'STOP!' Seth shouted.

The impure iron continued to sizzle against my flesh, and the finger protruding from my chest was beginning to bend.

'Now, push it back through.' I indicated the iron hand with a curt nod of my head.

He placed the flat of his hand against the pointed iron finger and gave it a quick, but firm, shove, until his palm was flat against my chest. It fell to the floor behind me with a metallic clank. My blood continued to sizzle and hiss against its surface leaving it a mound of disfigured iron. Seth pulled his hand back to see that the wound was already almost completely healed. His palm was coated with my blood. Slegna blood is not the pretty red color of a human's; it is black and honey thick. Seth ran his tongue the length of his hand in a slow, lascivious gesture.

I took a few steps backward and watched his unfolding ecstasy. I had seen the same reaction from Kalob, on many occasions, during our time together. He now tasted the blood from the oldest of beings. Seth's mouth tore at his own hand to get every last drop of my blood. The whites of his eyes were now gone. Two oval black orbs stared blindly outward as his body thrashed uncontrollably. His inhuman moans ricocheted from the walls of the room.

'He will be fine,' I said to ease his bodyguards' worry. 'It will pass in a few moments.'

His two faithful servants had already rushed to his side and were trying desperately to hold him in place. My blood had given him more strength than they could handle. It looked like two men riding a raging bull as they clung to its horns.

I tore off the tattered remains of my shirt, tossed it to the floor, and waited. Even in the subdued light, my white skin seemed to glow. I felt their eyes pressing against me from the shadows of the room. The vampires were studying me. A faint and gentle touch turned my gaze to David as he drew his fingers down one of the long contorted scars of flesh on my back. He traced the gnarled skin with his fingertips where my wings had been so violently removed from my shoulder blades. He seemed consumed in his inspection of the scar. He glanced upward, seeing my movement, and found me smiling at him. He pulled his hand back sharply and dropped his eyes to the floor. The reaction seemed strangely innocent. I say strangely, because, what vampire is innocent? They live by taking blood.

I turned back to where Seth now sat, quietly recovering from his taste of me.

'Everyone out!' Seth commanded.

I reached back to David and took his hand in mine. 'You may stay.'

Seth's bodyguards looked at him questioningly. He shook his head. I could see the disappointment and hurt in their eyes as they reluctantly left the room. As with any love struck watchdog, they were concerned about their master's safety. They closed the doors and I heard the unseen locks click into place. Seth stood and turned, grabbing the base of his throne, and pushed the massive stone structure back, revealing a set of stairs that led down into the torch-lit shadows. It was an impressive feat. No human or younger vampire could have done it. He was showing his strength.

Seth led the way, as the three of us descended down the stairs.

'Close the entrance behind you please.' He glanced back to me.

I moved the throne back into place with a thought, never breaking eye contact with our leader. He was testing me, perhaps, to find my limits. The absurd notion forced me to smile. I could see the quick calculations in his eyes as he turned and led us further down the stairs. The only sound was the soles of our shoes scuffing against the stone, while we made our way down through the shadows.

Our descent ended and we continued to move forward through a stone hallway, with artificial torches barely lighting our way. I couldn't help but think he had put too much effort into making this resemble his Mesopotamian home. He paused only a moment to press his hands against the surface of the giant stone that blocked our path. The stone was massive. It had to have weighed tens of tons, and the ease of movement seemed to surprise him as I listened to his sharp intake of breath. It slid smoothly to the right, opening a doorway into a room of modern luxury. We walked into the cavernous space.

The stone ceiling was at least eighteen feet high, supported by giant pillars that interrupted the view at thirty-foot intervals. There were four pillars supporting the ceiling. Inside the thirty-foot square area between them was a rising system of stairs that led to his resting place. It most resembled a pyramid between pillars that had been cut in half, and made into a loft-style resting place.

Seth glanced back at me. I closed the passage behind us as I had closed the entrance to the stairway, with a simple thought. He would not witness my limits tonight or any day in the future.

He led us to a grey marbled, granite table that sat in front of a wall of video screens. Ten across and ten down they displayed the destruction of man. Each screen's focus was a different view of turmoil scattered throughout parts of the world. They were moving pictures without sound, giving glimpses of current death and destruction.

'Please make yourselves comfortable.' Seth moved a short distance to a large stainless steel refrigerator surrounded by fine oaken cabinetry.

'Care for some refreshment?', he asked. His speech still possessed the remnants of the Sumerian pronunciation of words. It was stilted, with the strong enunciation of certain syllables that I'm sure few noticed.

I sat myself in one of the many extravagant; high backed and cushioned oak chairs that bordered the marble table.

'I do not feed, but I know I interrupted your meal,' I said to David, nodding to the chair beside me and opposite our host.

David settled into the chair beside me, and offered a barely audible 'Yes, please.'

I watched as Seth moved through the open kitchen area. No movement was without purpose. Time does that to a body. Every gesture is deliberate and fluid, and his actions proved he had been dead for a very long time. I estimated his age to be close to 1200 years. This world left him few surprises, and I would be his last.

Seth placed the fluted glass in front of David as he held his own close to his chest. It was filled with blood, and I knew David wanted to drink. The simple pleasures always kept their kind enthralled. I suppose it made the passage of time more bearable.

I could smell the stronger taint of Slegna blood in the glass. It was far from pure, but still potent compared to the blood that pushed through David's veins. It made me smile that Seth had given the best he had to offer to David.

'Would you meet your end now, or as you sleep,' I asked.

'I prefer the oblivion of sleep; I'm not fond of pain,' he answered with a smile, as he sat in the chair across from us.

David shifted in his seat uncomfortably. I know he didn't understand the inevitable. Seth could not live. He had tasted my blood, and that want would haunt him. I couldn't continue knowing he raged in torment for more, or worry about his subterfuge.

I tore the pages of recollection from Seth's mind violently, and waded through his thoughts like men do anthills. I continued as David sat quietly beside me until Seth slumped against the table. I had shredded his mind, leaving him only with the weakest of memories.

'Go to your bed and sleep,' I commanded.

Seth obeyed. He rose from his chair, and then climbed the stairs to the ornate bed that decorated the center of the cavernous room. As soon as his body rested quietly against the silk fabric, I sent the fire. An angry blaze engulfed him completely, erupting in a spray of ash. His immolation was quick and merciful.

 

DarkShadow

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