by Fred S. Bauers Jr.
read by Fred Bauers
Hosted by Emma Newman
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Pain had become the entirety of his world. Most of his flesh had been burned leaving only rigid patches of scars where soft skin had been. His once full head of long golden hair hung limply in patches upon his scarred scalp. Broken teeth ground together at the feel of a razor’s sharp steel blade cutting into the flesh of his nose, severing it from his face. Again and again it cut, slicing away one eyelid and then the other. Unable to close his eyes he could not look away as the scalpel descended to his mouth cutting away both of his lips completing the grisly death mask his face had become.
The pieces they cut from him were casually tossed into a brazier filling the chamber with the scent of burned flesh. There was a brief moment of lucidity as he wondered at his ability to smell without his nose. That moment did not last long, for his tormentor took a torch and seared the fresh wounds on his face to cauterize them, preventing his power from regenerating the lost tissue. In the past this part would have brought ear piercing screams from him but no longer. Now, he had become used to the pain. So much so that it had become a part of him.
Besides, the physical pain was nothing when compared to the burning hunger inside of him. It was a liquid fire that burned its way through his body causing him to shudder and writhe convulsively. He had gone longer without feeding than normal. Nergal did not like it if Krav passed out during the ‘sessions’, as he called them, so made sure Krav had the blood he needed to stay conscious. But, this time a meal had not been provided.
“Do not lose yourself to the hunger, Krav,” echoed a deep voice in the large stone chamber. “I will not have you unaware during the next few moments.”
“So you grace me with your presence?” Krav thought, sending the words telepathically, unable to speak due to his tongue having been removed. His ice blue eyes fixed on the shadow that was The First of Them All, The King of all Vampires, The Lord of the Underworld, and the most hated of all creatures, Nergal. ”To what do I owe this dubious honor,” his thoughts hissed.
“I have come to test a theory,” said the living shadow, as he moved closer the very light from the room seeming to be sucked into his inky blackness. Krav knew there was a body of flesh underneath that carefully contrived visage for he had been the only one in nearly three thousand years to see Nergal with out his shadowy disguise. There was no sign of that flesh beneath the swirling black that surrounded his foe now. Only eyes of molten red stared at Krav with deep malevolent hatred. “I have come to see the Great Krav Martonavic break.”
Krav felt anger build in his chest and was about to send his response screaming into the mind of this most hated of beings, but was made to pause by a soft familiar voice in his mind. “Beware, Krav, Nergal is doing more than just taunting you.”
“Hush, Ezekiel,” he thought. “He can do no more to me then he already has.”
“Do not be so sure my friend,” insisted the voice. “Nothing he does is without purpose.”
“Be quiet!” shouted the shade before him and Krav howled as an icy spike of mental force drove into his brain, pushing the consciousness of Ezekiel out. “I will not allow your maker to aid you in this Krav. This you will endure on your own.”
Krav could feel Ezekiel resist but it was not long before Nergal pushed him back. However, before being completely shut off, Ezekiel was able to send one more faint thought to him. “Remember who you are, Krav,” his voice whispered. “Remember.” Then he was gone.
Krav felt a pain at the loss of that voice. Ezekiel had been a constant presence in his head since the day he had become what he was. In many ways Ezekiel had been more of a father to him than the man that had called him son and made him heir to a kingdom. Ezekiel had sacrificed the entirety of his essence into the creation of Krav in order to provide him with the power necessary for the task that lay ahead. Since that day he had existed only as a separate consciousness inside Krav’s mind. A voice that offered support, wise counsel, and much needed training.
At Nergal’s signal the two red robed inquisitors slowly stepped back bending nearly double in prostration to their Lord and master leaving the room. Once they had departed Nergal flowed forward until he stood mere inches before Krav. “Yes, remember who you are,” said Nergal, his voice dripping with scorn. “Remember that you are my toy, remember that you are nothing before me.”
With a growl Krav pulled against the silver manacles that bound him, ignoring the razor sharp spikes of agony lancing down his arms, pulling himself erect so he could look down upon his hated foe. Eyes of icy blue fire stared into Nergal’s molten pits. He held his head high glaring down upon the shorter creature. Ezekiel had been right, he needed to remember who he was. He would have smiled if he had been able.
“I was the one that made you beg,” he thought clearly. “I was the one that brought you to your knees.” Satisfaction surged through him at the ripple in Nergal’s inky black form. Krav remembered shoving his black blade through Nergal. The memory of that anguished wail had been one of his few pleasures during the long years of captivity. Seizing it, he pushed that memory into Nergal’s mind, wielding it like a weapon.
He remembered entering the citadel after feeding off the blood of a mage, his mind still spinning with the swirl of energy that threatened to consume him from that potent blood. The power had been beyond anything he had ever imagined. He had been able to sense the very air around him, the flows of living energy it contained, and he had summoned it all. Drawing his black blade he stalked through the great golden doors into the throne room.
The moment he had seen the shadowy figure of Nergal, he had used the sword as a focus and sent a cylinder of white hot fire wreathed in lightning shooting at his enemy. Nergal had tried to flow around it but had been unable to avoid the blow. The force of the blast had sent Nergal flying across the room to slam with horrific force against the far wall. Krav remembered smiling when Nergal’s black form had dissipated, only to reform when the creature had realized that walls of solid air sealed the room preventing escape.
Nergal had howled in rage and two blades of shadow formed in his hands as he leaped forward, attacking Krav with all of his preternatural strength and speed. Blue sparks flashed in the darkness as blade of liquid night was met by obsidian steel. How long had they fought? Krav could not remember. Time had seemed to stand still as the two titans waged war upon each other. Blade against blade and mind against mind.
Krav had long since understood that the power of a vampire was determined more by his strength of will than his age and none had a greater will then Krav. The only being that could match him was Nergal himself. They had flowed through the throne room with the grace of dancers evenly matched foes each waiting for the other to make a mistake. Eventually, Nergal did.
With a triumphant cry Krav had driven the point of his black blade into his foe. With a grunt he twisted the blade viciously. The muscles of Krav’s face twitched as he tried to smile remembering Nergal’s howl of agony as the shadows that surrounded him had shattered revealing his true form.
Krav had been surprised at how small Nergal was. The creature couldn’t have been more than five and half feet tall and was slender of build. Dark eyes stared out of a brown skinned face twisted with rage and pain. Nergal’s hands shook as they gripped the dark blade only to pull back with a gasp as Krav twisted the blade again and sneered at the smoking gashes in Nergal’s palms.
“The blade is forged from sky metal,” he had said. “Its touch burns those of us that live beyond death.” He had shoved the blade deeper and had savored the scream that it tore from this creature’s mouth. “Such burns that cannot be healed by our power.”
Pain!!! A sudden surge of white hot fire coursed through Krav’s body jolting him back to the present.
His back arched, every muscle convulsing as he howled in agony. He could feel Nergal’s power triggering every nerve in his body. After several minutes, minutes that had seemed like days, he hung limp in the silver chains gasping his body still twitching from the after affects of the savage pain that had ripped through him. Nergal did not need his inquisitors to inflict pain upon his enemies. He was the master and none could administer it as effectively as he could himself.
“Did I touch a sore spot, Nergal,” Krav thought, gathering himself and forcing his gaze back to the shade. “Do you not like to remember that day?”
Krav could not define it but there was a difference in the blackness of Nergal’s shadowy form. A ripple along the surface which told him that he’d shaken Nergal with those memories, Krav rejoiced. It was a small victory but any victory over a creature such as this was to be savored. Nergal had never been defeated, had not even suffered injury until that day. Krav was the only creature in the entire world that had been able to hurt the first of all vampires. It was for this sin that he suffered, and it had been worth it.
“Worth it?” asked Nergal, sensing Krav’s thoughts. “Worth centuries of anguish? Worth the destruction of your people? Your kingdom destroyed?”
“Some yet survive,” Krav thought.
“But will your blood survive much longer?” whispered Nergal. His quite voice sending an icy chill down Krav’s spine. “How will the Great Krav survive knowing that his line has ended?”
“I was the only son of my father, the last of my line,” Krav thought in a hiss. “My line ends with me.”
“You know better than that, dear enemy,” whispered Nergal as his fingers caressed Krav’s scarred cheek. “You had uncles, did you not?”
Krav felt his stomach clench. He glared at Nergal, refusing to respond. His people had been the whole reason he had warred upon this creature. To prevent the great cleansing that Nergal had planned was the sole purpose of Krav’s campaign. All to save the people that mattered to him, the people of his homeland and his family. He could not, would not, believe Nergal had found them all.
He cried out as image after bloody image was seared into his brain. Men watching as their wives were ravaged, their children skinned alive and left to die in slow agony before they themselves died from months of torture. Krav remembered many of them and could see the family resemblance in the rest. Each death a dagger of ice thrust into his chest. He sobbed with a type of pain that he had no strength against.
“I will kill you,” thought Krav as he glared through red tears at Nergal. “I will see you dead.”
Deep laughter filled Krav’s ears. “I’ll admit you came closer than any before you, Krav,” whispered that sinister voice. “But, you know as well as I do that you will never get another chance. You are mine to do with as I please.”
Krav roared, sending a spike of burning hatred into Nergal’s mind. He snarled as his thoughts bore down upon his ancient foe seeking to overwhelm him. He pushed all of his hate, anger, and pain into the other’s mind. Their wills battled for long moments before Krav began to feel his attack pushed back. Slowly, Nergal pushed Krav out of his mind and slammed shut the barriers between them.
“This is why I never tire of you, my dearest enemy,” Nergal said with a bitter laugh. “You never cease to entertain me, but then all things must come to an end.”
Nergal raised a hand and Krav heard the heavy iron doors of the chamber open. At first it was utterly silent but then he heard it. The sweet sound of a human heart beat. That sound and the metallic smell of blood assaulted his senses. He shuddered as the hunger, momentarily forgotten, roared back to life a hundredfold. His mouth opened as the scent grew stronger, it’s source drawing nearer, his desire to feed overwhelming him.
“The hunger burns inside of you, Krav,” said Nergal. “I bring you blood to feed upon, but can you bring yourself to do so? Can you resist its sweet temptation?”
A woman was pushed roughly to her knees before him. Though she was naked, she showed no shame, only swiped the tears from her face and looked up at him. He stared into her eyes and recoiled. She was tall with pale skin and slender build. Black hair damp from sweat and blood hung limp to the middle of her back, despite the cut in her scalp and the blood she was beautiful but he could only see her eyes. Those eyes that were the same color as his, the eyes that showed, beyond all doubt, that she was of his line. This woman was a Martonavic.
“Yes, you see my dear enemy,” said Nergal, his voice soft with menace. “She is the last of your line. The last one to carry the blood of your family. With her death your line will come to an end and it will be by your own hand.”
Krav shook his head and strained against the silver chains that bound him. He tried to push back the hunger, drive it away. The woman stared at him, head held high. She would not give in to her fear, would not give her captor the satisfaction of her screams. Krav could see her mouth twitch as she tried to speak. He felt a momentary flash of pride because her eyes did not hold the fear one would expect. No, her eyes held hate for Nergal, they held pride and fury. The full lips of her mouth twisted and Krav realized that Nergal was keeping her from speaking. He too knew her words would not be the begging and pleading of lesser people.
“I will not,” thought Krav as he pushed back the hunger. “I will not give in to this.”
“You will my dear enemy,” said Nergal. “Even I cannot prevail against the hunger. Sooner or later you will feed. No matter your desire to spare this woman you will feed and thus you will destroy your own line.”
Nergal’s mocking laughter echoed around the room as he withdrew, sealing the great iron doors on Krav and his kin. Krav heard a soft click and collapsed to the ground. The silver manacles had been opened releasing his charred wrists from their painful embrace. Forcing himself up into a sitting position, ignoring the pain of his numerous broken bones, he looked at this woman. He could see the beat of her pulse and the heat of her blood as it coursed through her arteries and veins. He growled tearing his eyes away from her.
The scent of blood and the sound of it roaring through her veins filled his mind. He felt his fangs extend in response to his ravenous hunger and shook his head, enraged. Nergal had always ordered Kravs fangs removed. It was one of the many degradations that he seemed to relish inflicting upon him. But not this time. Now he understood why.
He screamed again and again as the hunger tore at his mind and body. It burned within leaving him hollow inside. It consumed his thoughts, his pride, his anger until the only thing in his world was the steady beat of that heart, the scent of that sweet blood. His body trembled and then a curtain of red descended upon him.
Krav’s blue eyes stared sightlessly out across the red lake and into the darkness. His thickly muscled arms wrapped tightly around his legs slowly rocking back and forth. Tears of blood left red streaks down each of his unblemished cheeks. He could feel his mentor’s hand gently rest on his shoulder as Ezekiel sat down beside him but he made no move to acknowledge him. Instead, his mind went through each and every image from the woman’s memory that had accompanied the blood. He was numb, his line, his family was dead. No one left to take up the mantle, no one to wear the crown of his broken kingdom. Her memories were all he had left and he went through them again and again, losing himself in them.
He lost track of time as he sat in that vast mental cavern with its lake of blood. How much time had passed? Hours? Days? Years? He did not know. Krav was only vaguely aware of Ezekiel’s comforting presence and of the burning pain of his slowly healing wounds. None of that mattered, nothing mattered anymore, nothing except those memories.
His eyes widened in shock. Had he seen that? Did he dare hope? His chest tightened as he slowly went back through each memory in detail. He gasped as he saw the memory that she had struggled to hide. The memory that she had buried deep so Nergal would not find it and he smiled.
“There is a child,” he said softly, turning to meet Ezekiel’s dark brown eyes.
He felt warmth spread through his body as his mentor returned the smile. “What now?” Ezekiel asked.
Krav turned his head to stare into the darkness, his smile growing wider. “Death and destruction,” he said. “Death and destruction.”
Ezekiel laughed and Krav joined him. Their laughter echoed in the dark cavern and he could almost sense the chill running down Nergal’s spine.
~ The End ~