Aleron: Book One of Strigoi Series (Stringoi Series) (9 page)

After tracking him for several weeks, I was able to predict his whereabouts from night to night. It took only a bit of logical deduction on my part. Once I was within a few cubits of him, his signature heartbeat
would direct me to him. I knew this night his conquest would take him to Damiat, near the mouth of the Nile, so to Damiat I went.

The journey to Damiat took far less time than it would have decades prior. I was now able to propel myself several kilometers at will, without the aid of the wind. The laws of physics were now bending to my demand. I was no longer bound by the rules of gravity. My ability to fly intrigued Mynea. She told me no other vampire whom she had known could take flight as I could. The others could move swiftly, as well as make enormous leaps, but not actually fly. This gift manifested within me and was mine and mine alone.

As soon as I arrived in Damiat, I began listening for his steady heartbeat. Once I isolated it, I began my pursuit. Within minutes I had him. But he wasn’t alone. I could read his mind and learned that with him was a woman of tender age, a girl. I took to the sky and perched myself on a rooftop seven stories above, peering down on Eli and the girl. It was a dark alley and, except for them, completely deserted. Eli coerced the girl into following him with something he stole from his last conquest, a silver necklace. He motioned for the girl to turn around so he could affix it to her neck and, as she complied, he grabbed her! The girl’s screams were muffled by his filthy, wet, hairy paw of a hand covering her mouth. Her feet struggled to gain ground but only futilely splashed in the puddles that accumulated from the steady rain. He lifted her off her feet, and her legs churned the empty air. But, alas, her feet found nothing to connect to. Hopelessness filled her heart.

I surveyed the other corners and finally the main road. No one was around. She would indeed be his next trophy. Soon her body would be discovered by a passerby and reported. Her memory would be added to the fear already spreading through the region, her family grief-stricken, her future stolen by this fiend.

I turned my attention back to Eli and the girl. He had completely subdued her. She lay flat on her back, and he held her head to the ground. He tore off her shirt with his other hand, exposing her underdeveloped breasts. It was disgusting to watch him fondle and grope her to his liking and to her dismay. Realizing he was simply too strong for her, she finally gave up her struggle. Her eyes went blank as her tears mixed in with the
raindrops falling upon her face. She looked up and whispered a prayer, and in that moment, she saw me.

Please help me! Please! Please! Help me!
Her thoughts screamed out to me. Usually I would not be so sentimental, but she reminded me of someone important in my mortal life, my sister. I obliged her.

I leapt down from the rooftop and landed purposefully louder than usual. This startled Eli. After noticeably flinching at the announcement of my presence, he turned his attention away from the girl and onto me. He leaned back down within an inch of her face and snarled, “I’ll be back to finish once I show our guest out.”

Eli looked directly at me and ran a paw over his face. Just before he began to speak, I did something I hadn’t done in years, since that night at the pond. I spoke to my dinner.

“Hello, Eli,” I said in the manner of an old, long-lost friend. His well-rehearsed battle face that no doubt struck fear to the hearts of his opponents was instantly replaced by a look of bewilderment.

“Who are you and how do you know my name?” he stammered.

“It’s of no consequence, but if you must know, I am Aleron. But for tonight, for you, I shall be called Death.”

“Is that so?” he replied. “Well, we’ll see about that.”

I turned my gaze to the girl. “You’re free to go now, young one.”

Unsteadily she scrambled to her feet and ran away. Her steps quickened the farther she got from Eli, until she was in full stride out of the dark alley and into the night.

Eli, watching her flee, reclaimed his battle face. His eyes focused. His nostrils flared. His mouth dropped open, exposing rotten and missing teeth. He pulled out his knife, no doubt the very one he used on the old woman weeks prior.

“I guess tonight Aleron is on the menu,” he gravely spat out, shifting the knife from hand to hand.

Hearing him say my name was queer and unfamiliar to me. For decades I’d only heard my name spoken by my beautiful Mynea, who made it sound like music, the sweetest symphony. Eli demonstrated how my name sounded when spoken by anyone else.

I swiftly closed the gap between us and grabbed his neck. I scaled
the building with him in tow, and in his astonishment, he dropped the knife. I heard the tiny splash it made as it landed in one of the puddles. I landed firmly on the rooftop with him still in my grasp. I squeezed his neck, careful not to crush it, while I forced him to the edge of the building. With each step closer to the edge, he gasped for air. I held him over the building. He struggled to look down from the corners of his eyes. Completely satisfied, I closed my eyes, lifted my face, and allowed the rain to tease my senses. I opened them to see the moon. Yes, it was more than enough light for him to see me. If there was ever a meal that I wanted to see my true nature, it was Eli. Death had arranged a special messenger for him. He’d be reunited with his victims in a manner that only a vampire could deliver.

Eli affixed his eyes upon me. I grinned and revealed my vampire teeth. He opened his mouth and spattered, “You’re not human! Are you the devil?” Saliva flew from his lips and onto my face as he strained to speak. Coughing profusely and hardly able to formulate more words, he muttered, “Are you here to take me to hell?”

I slightly loosened my grip. “Eli, I’m surprised at you. For months you’ve played Death’s reaper to the innocent. Seventeen lives, to be more precise. And though they begged you to spare them or their loved ones, you answered with either your knife, or your penis and then the knife. So for you, yes. I am your reaper! I am your devil! I will deliver you to whatever afterlife awaits you.”

Once dangling, he did not struggle out of fear that the slightest movement would send him plummeting to his certain death. “What are you going to do to me?” he gasped.

A strange yet inviting feeling took over me. I had the sudden urge to put the laws of gravity to the test. And so I did. I stepped off the roof into the open air. I allowed Eli to look down. He realized there was nothing holding me, and total despair filled his face. I brought my nose within an inch of his, as he had done with the girl. I smiled again and took him straight up into the night air, twirling him to further exacerbate his unease. I bit into his neck as we soared, draining almost all of his blood. I didn’t want to kill him just yet. He stared at me as we flew.

“I’ve drained you nearly to the point of death, Eli,” I softly told him.
“But I won’t kill you. I’m merely an instrument.” Then I dropped him. Too weak to scream out, Eli expelled a pitiful sigh as he started his descent. I could see his fear; it was a look he must have seen at least seventeen times before in the faces of the unfortunate innocent. I could hear his once steady heartbeat race, just as the pulse of his victims had soared. His grizzly deeds played over and over in my mind as my vampire eyes followed him down.

Before he hit the ground, Eli struck the corner of the building. I heard his vertebrae shatter in several places. I could also hear his heart beating so profoundly that I knew it would burst from the shock of death racing upon him. A bane on society, Eli preyed upon the public, and it was only fitting that his end should be public as well. Eli landed in the middle of the square, a heaping, bloody mess for all to see. Screams and gasps filled the air below. It was fitting.

I alighted with stealth, much differently from when I announced my presence to Eli. I wanted to see the justice I dispensed personally. I wanted to scan the thoughts of the people who witnessed the aftermath of this gruesome death. I needed to see.

Landing just beyond the crowd, I raised the collar of my coat to create a bit of a shadow on the profile of my face. Though fresh blood was coursing through me, my skin appeared quite unnatural in the full moon. I drew in and buttoned my overcoat to hide Eli’s only contribution to this world, his blood. I wiped his offering from my mouth and stepped toward the onlookers now gathering en masse around the body. Avoiding detection, I looked upon him. Poor Eli. His wish had been granted: eternal, blissful death.

I was about to depart unnoticed, as I’d arrived, when I heard a familiar voice say, “Thank you.” It was the girl, and she was, again, staring directly at me. She had seen me take to the air. She had seen how easily I had disposed of Eli. She knew I wasn’t human. She knew! By the code, she was condemned to death. Mercy again played its part. I couldn’t bring myself to kill her after saving her, for she reminded me so much of my little sister. Her innocence. Her naivety. She walked toward me, and I started walking in the opposite direction. Her pace quickened. I stopped and waited. Her footsteps came to a halt a few feet from me.

“Thank you,” she said again, this time softer, yet more direct. I turned around and raised my hand to give her something, the silver necklace that Eli had used to lure her into the alley. As she opened her hand and marveled at the bounty, I slipped away into the darkness, never to be seen by her again.

I arrived back to the safety of the castle just before daybreak. I found Mynea lying on the bearskin that we usually slept on together. She was barely awake. The coming of the sun had taken its toll on her, too. Or so I thought. We didn’t talk this time. We simply embraced, kissed, and drifted.

CHAPTER 7
 

’m lost in your arms, Aleron. I chose you above all others. I’ve watched you for decades and you never cease to amaze me. With me, you have known pleasure the likes of which humans cannot imagine. I’ve taught you all of my knowledge and wisdom while making you stronger than any of my other children as well as all others of our kind. You’ll stand alone atop an empire that I’ll create for you. You will be king. You’ve given me the one thing he never will: your heart, my love. He forgot passion long, long ago. His icy core never thaws. I’ll show you what he’s shown me and more. When you awake, you’ll long for what is rightfully yours by birth—me. The void in me will be no more. For now, go and master your immortal gifts. For this lesson I’m no longer needed
.

“My lady,” Eliza expressed softly. “It’s time. You must start your journey. All has been prepared for you in the hills of Moeciu, as well as in the innermost chamber of the Carpathians. I wish you well, my lady.”

“I know, my dear, sweet, and loyal Eliza. Thank you. Provide for
Aleron as you have provided for me. There’s no need to fear him. When he awakens, he’ll have a hunger unmatched by anything you’ve ever witnessed. And even though he knows you are of me, it may be difficult for him to control his hunger. You mustn’t let fear dissuade you from the task at hand. He’ll call out to me and be unanswered. You must go to him and soothe him. You’ll serve him as you serve me. I can’t tell you where my destination is, for he’ll read your thoughts and follow, only to find his death.”

“And what stops him from killing me, my lady?”

“He won’t, my dear.”

“And if he refuses to listen to me and travels as far as the Carpathians in search of you?”

“Then he’ll be on the doorsteps of a monster, the likes of which he’s never encountered nor possesses the strength to conquer. He’s seen the castle within my blood, for he’s grown strong, and it’s more difficult to hide my memoirs from him. If he allows his longing for me to set him on that path, he’ll kill us both, leaving you vulnerable to those of our kind who are unclean and follow no laws of the immortals. So you see, my dear, your survival depends on his.”

“How long until your return?”

“I won’t be gone long. I know you’re troubled with thoughts of your own mortality. You’ve come to understand my immortal blood has made your heart strong and granted you unusually long life for a mortal. I will return before Father Time claims possession of you.”

Other books

I Think of You: Stories by Ahdaf Soueif
Iron by Amy Isan
The Silver Age by Gunn, Nicholson
Othermoon by Berry, Nina
The Prelude by Kasonndra Leigh
Hell or Richmond by Ralph Peters
The Dead Mountaineer's Inn by Arkady Strugatsky