The Buccaneer Chronicles:
By Karen Dunn (Despite Interference by Keith Dunn, Andy Simpkins, Adam J Purcell and Tony Gallichan)
Chapter Seven- The Past
"That was too easy.
I'm missing something.
It has been a long while since I encountered a mind as strong as his.
I could feel him closing off his thoughts at just the slightest of touches.
Frustrating and yet exciting.
I admit to feeling a touch apprehensive as I watched Tyrel bound off, ready to shadow the stranger's every move then slaughter him once the deed was done.
Once Eleanor was dead.
Mixed feelings? Of course. She was the best I ever turned. There had been no fear in her soul as I tore it from her and she remained unafraid until the day she left.
She would stand toe-to-toe and berate me for being what I am, for dragging her along with me.
On day one she refused to kill, trying to sustain herself with the food of the living. Nuts and berries and things foraged from the woods - it was disgusting.
After two weeks without tasting blood I truly believed she would die.
Then it happened.
She had thrown herself into her research, refusing my offers of help with sharp rebukes and threats of violence.
It was almost as if she didn't like me.
After 10 days she could no longer concentrate.
After 12 she was reduced to huddling in corners, screaming at nightmares and imaginary foes.
On the 14th night she had vanished.
I had been concerned, naturally, and sent two of the others to find her. They returned battered and bruised an hour later, limping home like beaten dogs, telling tales of a mad woman who had laid claim to the forest.
Curiosity led me through the trees to find her, but it was her screams that truly lit the way.
She had caught a young one - a girl.
There were no wounds on the body apart from two neat little holes at the jugular, so I knew the kill had been quick and clean.
I had been glad for her.
Nothing sours the taste of blood like fear.
Instinct had allowed to her to drink her fill and her lips and chin were red with left-overs.
When I found her she was howling out her grief, tears streaking trails through the blood, the cadaver limp in her arms.
I must admit that I began to wonder whether I had turned her correctly.
There was too much soul in those cries for one who should be undead.
Who had ever heard of a vampire mourning a kill? Did the townsfolk weep and wail every time they slaughtered a pig for a feast?
I had approached her cautiously, one hand stretching before me as if she were a frightened animal.
I think I should have chosen my words more carefully.
In the blink of an eye she was on me - teeth glinting in the moonlight, eyes burning yellow in her twisted face. She bore me to the ground with disturbing ease, digging her elongated fingernails into my throat.
"You will not speak to me again."
I blinked at her, wondering how far I should let this go before I beat her down.
Her grip had tightened as my attention wandered, "You are nothing to me, do you hear? You are not capable of love and I will never forgive you for what you have done to me."
Then she pushed herself away from me with a look of utter disgust, as though I were some mess she had fallen into.
"I hate you."
She turned to the corpse and scooped it into her arms, cradling it tenderly while crooning a ridiculous lullaby to its dead ears.
With one final glare at me as I sat on my backside in the mulch of leaves that made up the forest floor, she had turned towards the lights of the town and was gone.
She was magnificent. We could have ruled supreme, side by side, lords of the night.
I had assumed that the townsfolk would string her up and tear out her heart for what she had done.
Shame really - she had been very entertaining.
It was eight years before I learned she was still alive and kicking.
Our numbers had dwindled in that time. The coming of the slayers had been hard on us and by the time we realised they would be a problem they were too well-established to destroy.
My minions brought me tales of an undead who was working with the slayers, feeding off them at night while they hunted for our nests by day.
I killed three of my own kind for spreading such lies, so naturally I felt a little silly when I found out they were true.
One of my oldest friends brought the news that the undead in question was Eleanor; that he had spoken to her; that she was still working to find a cure for our condition.
Naturally I had tried to speak to her.
Surely, after all those years, she was ready to come home.
She refused to hear me.
We met one night at the edge of the forest outside the town. I brought her flowers; told her I was pleased to see her alive and well.
I invited her to return to us, all history forgiven and forgotten.
She took the flowers with a smile, her hand lingering on mine - at least that's how I saw it.
Then she asked me for help.
She was close to a cure, she said, as if our people were simply succumbing to a heavy dose of flu.
With my help her work would be easier, she said.
I told her about the new blood that had been turned to swell our numbers, described the thrill of the hunt.
I urged her to recall the ecstasy she had felt as she sank her teeth into the neck of the girl, the warm blood pumping down her throat, spilling over her chin and filling her aching belly.
How could she feed off the willing when the hunt was so much more?
She had pushed me away then, crushing the flowers against my chest as anger clouded her ageless features.
"You're nothing but an animal," she hissed.
And she had turned her back and walked away from me, ignoring my calls.
I hated her from that day to this.
I had lost countless brethren to her and her slayer band.
Some to the hunt and some to the failed potions she injected into their veins, hoping each time that it would be the one to return them their soul.
They all failed.
But with each friend I lost to her experiments, the fear that she would one day succeed gnawed painfully at my gut.
Because if she succeeded she would be sentencing me to death.
You cannot cure what was never infected.
There is always one seed from which every plant blossoms, and I am that seed.
There are so few of us left.
For every one of my children she strikes down I can create another. For every friend her slayers slaughter I will find more.
But I cannot allow her to turn her attention to me.
All would be lost.
I am unique on this world. Far from home, displaced from my own kind by light years of space, I am the last of my kind.
And that is why she had to die.
But now I find myself questioning the method.
I was quick to judge this stranger a fool - his dress and his manner did not give the impression of an educated man - but his mind spoke volumes about who he really is.
Or, more accurately, it hardly spoke at all. And that was the problem.
It has been 100 years since anyone among the townsfolk was able to hide so much as an emotion from me. I read them as easily as day turns to night.
But this man, with his arrogant manner and strange, metallic friend, was able to shield himself from me with no effort at all.
I wonder if I was hasty in my instructions to Tyrel.
Would this man serve me better alive?
These days I fond it hard to concentrate and I suspect my judgement has been flawed on more than one occasion.
It's annoying, but I know deep down that it is the way of things for my kind.
It will not last but I am impatient for it to end.
Only a century ago my wits were as sharp as my fangs and my kindred looked to me for guidance.
I knew when to hunt and when to sleep; I knew when to move on and when to erupt from the night and lay waste to a town.
Now my brethren huddle for warmth in a subterranean cavern, taking comfort from one another, afraid to approach me for fear I will strike them down.
They have no pride in what they are - what I have made them - and that has made them weak.
They crouch in corners whispering about slayers, and the fear and awe in their voices makes me retch.
How can they expect to survive if they are afraid of their prey?
For the first time in decades, the list of the lost is far longer than the list of the hunters.
But not for long.
I recognise the signs - the calm before the storm.
My weakness will not diminish our strength much longer.
The time of rebirth is almost upon me and I will rise up once again, more powerful than I have ever been.
And when I do I will show my kindred the meaning of strength.
We will swarm over this land, crushing all before us, feasting on the very soul of this world.
The slayers will learn the meaning of fear.
And I will rule eternal."