Aleron: Book One of Strigoi Series (Stringoi Series) (7 page)

I was left standing in the middle of nowhere. I could no longer sense Mynea’s presence. What lesson did she want to teach me? I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, so I began to walk in the manner I was most familiar with, as a mortal man.

I was enamored with everything that embodied Mynea. My infatuation for her was greater than any feeling or emotion I’d ever felt. I couldn’t decipher at the time if I loved deeper as a vampire or if I was simply under her powerful spell. All I knew for sure was that I cherished her a thousand times more than a husband cherishes his faithful and nurturing wife. I adored her a hundred times more than a baby adores its mother. It was love incarnate. Immortal love, perhaps. Nonetheless, love it certainly was.

I continued to take note of my surroundings, and I followed a soft melody to a nearby pond. The ground was damp and gave with every step, leaving a progressively deeper impression as I came closer to the inviting body of water. I bent down for a drink when I saw—me.

I had changed. I was surprised and startled by the reflection in the water. It was me, but I was something far more than my former self. Up until this point I had never referred to myself as beautiful. Sure I was handsome and desirable to some women and probably even to some men. But the vampire staring back at me was beautiful.

Picasso would have considered my cast a work of art. Though I was a young mortal not long ago with faint facial lines that told a finite tale, my face seemed to have eluded the shackles of time. Everything about me had changed. Even the feel of the water, now flooding my ankles, felt different. Anyone can clearly observe the hundreds of tiny waves created by a single minute disturbance in its calmness, but I could
feel
them. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of infinitesimal waves crashed against my leg, all invisible to the mortal eye and completely undetectable to the mortal touch. It was in that very moment, while observing my own reflection, that I felt extraordinary.

I clasped my hands together, bent down, and submerged them in the water, capturing an amount more likely to tease than quench my thirst. How refreshing. It felt revitalizing, cool, and crisp, traveling swiftly down my throat, a delightful and tantalizing contrast to my blood thirst.

As I knelt for a second helping, I caught a familiar scent. I bolted erect, turned, and found Mynea standing behind me. She held a young girl in her arms.

“I’ve made you strong, Aleron, and I assure you, that was no easy
feat. You must now learn your strengths and respect your weaknesses.” I could see that the girl was still alive, but she looked bewitched, undoubtedly lost in Mynea’s allure.

“I’ve brought you a meal, my young Aleron, but this will become much more.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. She gently put the girl on the ground, then caressed my face with her hand as I closed my eyes and pressed to intensify her touch. When I opened my eyes to capture the moment, Mynea was gone!

I looked down at the girl now lying on the ground. Thoughts of Mynea dissolved as soon as the girl’s blood called out to me. I knelt on one knee and took her head into my hand. I placed my hand just beneath the base of her skull, causing her neck to appear elongated. The sight was intoxicating! The desire to drain her of all life drove me into a frenzy. I plunged my teeth into her neck, and the blood began to pour into my mouth. It was more powerful than a hundred mortal orgasms.

Her vivid memories began to convey her last moments: getting up from a table surrounded by men and women and walking intently toward my beloved, whom I could see through the girl’s eyes. Mynea took her into her arms and retraced her path around the crowded table and room, seemingly floating just beyond the crowd’s reach as they witnessed her unnatural movements. The men were furious, and the women screamed as Mynea carried the girl into the night. Indeed, my blood meal was appreciated, but it came with a purpose. Sinister purpose.

My senses heightened as the scent of unknown mortals filled the air. I could hear their hasty footsteps coming from the west. From the rhythm and space between steps I determined that there were two of them. The timbre and heaviness of their breathing suggested that they were males. Quickly I continued to consume the meal I started, careful not to completely finish her until the two men arrived. I knew allowing them to see me would spell death to them. The steps drew closer and then came to a swift halt.

“Let her go!” the shorter of the two shouted.
I’m gonna gut your ass as soon as you step away from her
, he thought.

I stood to my feet, holding the girl by her hair with my back to both
men. I unceremoniously tossed her aside, and she landed with a lifeless thud. The taller man realized that she was dead.

I slowly turned around and set my sights on my prey. Towering over the men, I remained stoic, my face impossible to read. I then smirked and challenged the men aloud, “Cut me.”

The shorter of the two leapt forward, drew his knife, and flung wildly in a failed attempt to slash me. I moved slightly to the left between them, and the shorter one connected with air and fell to the ground. I turned and smiled at the other man over my shoulder.

He drew two large knives and yelled, “Die!” He swung his arms, desperately trying to make contact. His look of determination reminded me of the face a child would make during a tantrum. It was comical. Pitiful, actually.

After allowing him to get frustratingly close with several swings, I moved ten feet backward without moving my feet. Neither man knew what to make of my peculiar movements. I could sense their anger building. The taller one was developing a plan within his feeble mind. The shorter one only wanted me dead by his own hand, right then!

He ran toward me and thrust the knife toward my throat. I leapt twenty feet into the air, and as his brain tried to comprehend what his eyes had just witnessed, I plunged down on him, my feet landing squarely on his shoulders. His legs crushed under the force, and I could hear the bones in his back and shoulders shattering. He screamed in agony.

The taller man quickly reconsidered his plan for revenge, instead choosing to flee. I sprang from the shorter man’s shoulders toward his partner, grabbed him by his collared shirt, and lifted him off his feet. He was stronger and larger than the average man and not accustomed to being weaker than his opponents, which explained his bewildered look. I brought him closer. I wanted him to see the immortal me, to see what I saw in the reflection of the pond. I wanted to burn my face into his dying memory.

Even though his thoughts were sporadic and grossly incoherent, one thought was clear:
Not human
. He repeated this thought over and over. Not human, indeed.

I smiled once more, this time displaying my vampire teeth. “No,” I
said. “Not human anymore!” With this statement I plunged my canines into his throat, purposely crushing his neck with my bite. I almost found myself chewing as I sucked his blood. My limbs started to grow numb, and I could feel weakness creeping in. The feeling reminded me of my first blood meal. My bite had been too ferocious, and I had severed his veins! I knew the blood was tainted, but in my gluttony, I couldn’t stop myself. The blood was too intoxicating to stop, and I wanted to continue at all costs.

Even at the cost of death, Aleron?
I heard Mynea’s voice in my head. I was drowning in this erotic pleasure, antagonized by the logic of my mother. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my lower back. It was impossible to awake from the drunken stupor induced by the bad blood. I felt hot breath on my neck and hair and another sharp pain just above the last.

A man yelled, “Die, you monster! Die!” in my left ear, rendering it moist. This irritated me immensely. I wondered how I had not picked up the stench from his rotting teeth. My mind wasn’t yet able to focus, but I could feel him on my back. He was much heavier than the two already slain by my hand.

The taller man’s heartbeat faded to silence, and I released him. I felt my blood spilling from the wounds inflicted by the third man. He stabbed me a third time on my right shoulder. “You’re gonna pay for what you’ve done!” he screamed.

I had to focus. The man put his arm around my neck and plunged his knife into the back of my head. Despite the excruciating pain, I took advantage of his mistake.

I felt myself growing feeble from rapid blood loss. I opened my mouth and bit into his hairy arm, and he screamed out. I began to suck, and before I knew it, I was standing. With him still on my back and his arm still in my mouth, I lunged backward with fierce momentum and crashed into a mighty oak. I could feel the warm mess of the crushed man. I spat out his despicable arm and stepped forward. Though I didn’t turn around, I could hear the man’s bloody flesh dripping down the tree. I could feel his body peeling off my back.

I was furious. He had actually hurt me. The arrogance of it! A query presented itself, his arrogance or mine? Mine, I reluctantly concluded.

Still somewhat lethargic from the tainted blood and not enough good blood from the third man, I searched for Mynea. I had heard her thoughts when I was drinking the foul blood, so she must be in the vicinity. My vision wasn’t sharp. In fact, none of my senses were keen after the last snack. I could scarcely hear the creatures of the night. Each sound was muffled and without distinction. I looked down at my pale hands. My steps were no longer sure or graceful as I walked slowly back to the pond. Once I felt the water begin filling my shoes, I dropped to my knees and leaned forward onto my hands to keep myself from falling in.

Perhaps pure and simple water could be my cure. Leaning forward, I caught a glimpse of myself again, and again, I hardly recognized my face. My mouth was stretched. Weathered lines of age now resided in my face. My eyes appeared dark and sunken. My hair was an unkempt mess. I had a look and feeling of sorrow. I resembled a corpse! “Not Aleron,” I whispered. This couldn’t be me. It was some simple, rudimentary imitation of a Picasso.

I drank the water. Though refreshing, it had no profound effect on my weakened state. I began to feel the chill in the night air. I didn’t sense the presence of anyone. Or, I couldn’t. I looked around and saw the carnage I had left. I looked back into the pond, taking note of my reflection again. I didn’t see radiance. I didn’t witness divinity. I didn’t embody immortality. I didn’t resemble the king my queen spoke of. I saw vulnerability. I saw frailty. I saw mortality. I saw death.

I realized that Mynea was trying to teach me about immortality. I had been under the misconception that I couldn’t die. As a fledgling, I misunderstood immortality to mean to live forever; I’ve since learned to the contrary. Vampires can be vulnerable to death. If I remained careless about my eternal life, I would certainly die. There are rules that must be obeyed if I’m to remain alive. This lesson, Mynea had instructed, should never be forgotten. And it never has.

I smelled more men approaching, and I could hear their chatter and their calls to those who preceded them. I couldn’t tell how many there were at the time, for it was difficult to focus and isolate the sounds and nuances. I tried to read their thoughts, but my effort was futile. As weak as I felt, I knew there was no way I could defeat them all. I realized I
had few options. I had neither the time nor the strength to escape. I slid quietly into the water, trying desperately not to cause a disturbance. I swam toward the opposite bank.

When the men came upon my massacre, they erupted into angry shouts. Their cries faded the deeper and farther away I swam. My strength was fading, and my muscles ached with every stroke. The water was cool against my skin, yet it seemed to be an almost impenetrable barrier holding fast as I desperately tried to swim. My mind was overwhelmed with thoughts of mortality. I could feel my lungs pleading for air. The surface seemed out of reach. I felt panic and desperation in my lungs. My movements began to lose purpose. I tried not to inhale, knowing that when I did, all would be lost. My immortal life would be no more. With open arms, the angel of death was ready to accept my offering.
Condemnation to hell
, I thought.
I’m going to die!

Reality was now lost. Logic and reason were but a memory. I was suspended between life and death. The underwater scene seemed surreal, and the surface above danced with the distorted reflections of the moon. Darkness fell over me. Motionless I sank, my eyes still open. In the moments before losing consciousness, I could think only of her.

CHAPTER 6
 

awoke in Mynea’s powerful grasp. She pressed her right wrist against my lips. Instinctively I bit into it, and the blood flowed from her body into mine, her heart pumping vigorously to serve an additional body. My sensibility began to return, and I could focus my mind. I began to suck more and more vigorously. Visions began to play before my mind’s eye, many reminding me of the last time Mynea had fed me from her own bosom. Suddenly she wrenched her arm away from my overzealous mouth and stood. The look in her eyes was one of disappointment and fury. “You fool! You would trade life immortal for one blood meal?”

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