Authors: Scott G. Mariani
Scott G. Mariani
SINCE THE DAWN of civilisation, vampires preyed on human beings, drank their blood and regarded them contemptuously as an inferior species, a mere disposable resource. For aeons, the vampires ruled.
But things have changed. With the birth of the modern age and the explosion in human telecommunications and surveillance technology, many vampires realised that they could no longer carry on the old ways. Something needed to be done if the ancient culture was to survive.
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the World Vampire Federation was founded to control and oversee the activities of the vampire community. No longer would vampires prey unrestricted on human beings and turn them into creatures like themselves. New biotechnologies enabled the Undead to walk in daylight, living among us, in our cities, our streets. Strict laws were imposed to control vampire activity and allow their community to carry on. Quietly. Unnoticed. Undisturbed.
These laws were enforced by the Federation’s Vampire Intelligence Agency, or VIA, with a licence granted by the Ruling Council to hunt and destroy transgressors.
But not all the vampires were willing to obey…
Table of Contents
The Scottish Highlands
Outside the cottage, the storm had reached its peak. Rain was lashing out of the starless sky, the wind was screaming, the branches of the forest whipped and scraped violently at the windows.
The lights had gone out, and the old place was filled with shadows from flickering candles. The twelve-year-old boy had been cowering at the top of the creaky stairs, listening to the argument between his parents and his grandfather and wishing they’d stop. Wanting to run downstairs and yell at them to quit fighting. Especially as he knew they were fighting about him
When the thing had come. A creature that looked like a man – but could not have been a man.
The boy had seen it all take place. Watched in speechless horror, peering through the banister rails as the intruder crashed in the door and strode through the hallway. The argument had stopped suddenly. His parents and his grandfather turned and stared. Then the sound of his mother’s scream had torn through the roar of the storm.
The creature never even slowed down. It caught his father and his mother by the arms, whipping them off their feet as though they weighed nothing. Like dead leaves. It dashed their heads together with a sound that the boy would never forget. Candles hissed, snuffed out by the blood spray.
Then the thing had dropped the bodies and stepped over them where they lay. Smiling now. Taking its time. And approached his grandfather.
The old man backed away, quaking in fear. Spoke words that the boy could not understand.
The thing laughed. Then it bit. Its teeth closed on the old man’s throat and the boy could hear the terrible gurgle as it gorged on his blood.
It was just like the stories. The stories his parents hadn’t wanted his grandfather to tell him. The boy shrank away and closed his eyes and wept silently and trembled and prayed.
And then it was over. When he opened his eyes, the killer had gone. The boy ran down the stairs. He gaped at the twisted bodies of his mother and father, then heard the groan from across the room.
The old man was lying on his back, his arms outflung. The boy ran to him, kneeled by his side. Saw the wound in his grandfather’s neck. There was no blood. All gone.
Claimed by the creature.
‘I’m dying,’ his grandfather gasped.
‘No!’ the boy shouted.
‘I’ll turn.’ The old man’s face was deathly pale and he gripped the boy’s arms so tightly it hurt. ‘You know what to do.’
‘It has to be done,’ the old man whispered. He pointed weakly at the sabre that hung over the fireplace. ‘Do it. Do it now, before it’s too late.’
The boy was convulsed with tears as he staggered over to the fireplace. His fingers closed on the scabbard of the sabre, and he unhooked the weapon from its mounting. The blade gave a soft zing as he drew it out.
‘Hurry,’ his grandfather croaked.
The boy pushed the sword back into the scabbard. ‘I can’t,’ he sobbed. ‘Please, Granddad. I don’t want to.’
His grandfather looked up at him. ‘You must, Joel. And when it’s done, you have to remember the things I told you.’ His life energy was fading fast, and he was struggling to talk. ‘You have to find it. Find the cross. It’s the only thing they truly fear.’
The cross of Ardaich. The boy remembered. Tears flooded down his face. He closed his eyes.
Then opened them. And saw that his grandfather was dead.
The storm was still raging outside. The boy stood over his grandfather’s body and wept.
And then his grandfather’s eyes snapped open and looked deep into his. He sat upright. Slowly, his lips rolled back and he snarled.
For a second the boy stood as if mesmerised. Then he started back in alarm as his grandfather began to climb to his feet. Except it wasn’t his grandfather any more. The boy knew what he’d become.
Candlelight flashed on the blade as he drew the sabre. He raised it high and sliced with all his strength – the way the old man had taught him. Felt the horrible impact all the way to the hilt as it chopped through his grandfather’s neck and took the head clean off.
When it was done, the boy staggered out into the storm. He began to walk through the hammering rain. He walked for miles, numb with shock.
And when the villagers found him the next morning, he couldn’t even speak.
Eighteen years later
Pockets of thick autumnal mist drifted over the waters of the Thames as the big cargo ship cut upriver from the estuary, heading for the wharfs of the Port of London. Smaller vessels seemed to shy out of its way. With its lights poking beams through the gloom, the ship carved its way westwards into the heart of the city.