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DarkShadow

Midnight's Rainbow

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Midnight's Rainbow

Prologue

My anguished screams buffeted the walls of the great hall as I strained against the heavy black iron that bound me to the altar. The biting burning smell of seared flesh in the iron rings was barely a distraction compared to the absolute devastation that traveled along my back. I writhed from the horrific pain as my right wing was brutally hacked and chopped away. The chains clanked from my struggles. I watched in horror as my bloodied feathered wing fell to the golden floor like so much dead meat.

"Mother, please!" I begged through stinging hot tears and blurred eyes. My vision cleared enough to see her bury her sobs in my father's chest.

My father, the king, had announced my solemn punishment promptly. My brother Lucif had made it his business to see he wasn't alone in his misery. It had been many millennia since this punishment had been given, and now, I was the victim of my father's wrath.

The Slegna were quick with their duties as they rounded the altar and pushed me against the cold granite. They made short work of my remaining wing as they continued their vicious work. My screams shattered the silence.

"Witness your wrath father!" I howled as I watched him divert his eyes to the floor.

I felt the loss of weight as my left wing fell. It was done to me as it had been to my younger brother Lucif. He had interfered with Moses as much as I had with Kalob. I would be exiled to the human world to live out eternity until my father thought better of it.

I watched as my mother pulled from his embrace and stepped away. She moved down the golden steps toward me.

"It is forbidden!" my father's voice echoed with a thunderous roar.

For the first time, I watched her defy him. She healed my wounds with a wave of her hand and I felt the weight of the irons leave me. She turned to face the man I called my father.

"You forget your place!" The violence and strength of her words shook the hall like a tremor in reality. Age old dust fell from the ceiling of the structure to the floor.

"As you have cursed them, I now curse you. You will remain as frozen as your heart," Her words were absolute.

"You will receive my forgiveness, when you have given them yours! The worlds are now truly forgotten."

I watched as a crystal formed around my father’s feet. It surged around and up his legs as if swallowing him. The crystal moved with purpose and soon encased him completely. His expression of rage and surprise was distorted behind the bends of the octagonal facets.

"Would you go to him Asher?" My mother turned and lay her hand on my shoulder.

"Yes." My voice was weak and she bent to hear my words.

"So be it." I felt the butterfly touch of her lips against my forehead.

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Chapter 1 The Fallen

As I fell to Earth, my brother Lucif took Kalob's blood and gave his own. The result made him, what you call 'Vampire'. We lived happily together for more than seven hundred years, before the villagers set our house ablaze. They came at dawn, leaving us no escape. If Kalob went into the daylight he would die.

The fire would not kill me, but would my precious lover. I remember watching as the intense heat began to scald his flesh. Yelled curses behind the roar of flame were the backdrop to my heart's devastation. I remember the horrific screams that escaped Kalob. I held him, and gazed into his eyes until he was only ash. You hairless monkeys turned my love and joy into grey powdery death.

Night fell; I healed, and rose from beneath the rubble with a hatred never before felt. I killed everyone in Sodom that night. I swept through with such exquisite destruction they still tell the tale, albeit incorrectly. It was not God's wrath, it was mine. Man’s intolerance brought forth such an anguish-fueled rage in me, they had no hope. It was not punishment for forbidden love. It was because of the love they took from me. Kalob and I had been this city's first inhabitants, and I would be its last. Their blood paved my path into oblivion.

We are not Angels, we are the Slegna. You silly humans always did get things twisted around. We were old when the universe was young, and my mother, was the first. We call her the first, because we know of nothing that came before her. Only she can remember the beginnings of time.

My father was the second. It has never been mentioned or questioned, as to how much time passed before his arrival. My mother's 'superiority' and 'status' seemed to be a dent to his ego. Together, they had many sons, and I was but one of them. I was not the oldest or the youngest. I was the middle child of thousands.

I wandered the night for decades, catching glimpses of my brother's work. Christianity had been his biggest joke. Man was so gullible. It still brings a smile to my face, that man could believe that my father gave one of his progeny, as a 'gift'. Our presence in this world is our punishment. The man Jesus was only that, a man. Nice guy, valuable message, but not Slegna. He was the Mozart of peace, but nothing more. Humans do love to spin a tale. Your 'Jesus' was only one of many that, sadly, got nailed. So, before you scream ‘Blasphemer!’ and ready your pitchforks, settle yourselves, and let me tell my tale.

Man was but a fleeting obsession of my father's. The rock called Earth formed naturally. Given the infinity of time, all is possible, and so you came to be as you are now. The impossible made possible. That most can't comprehend the chaotic pattern was never our concern. What kindness that my father held for you, now lay trapped in a crystal prison. You were on your own.

You were, however, off limits. The worlds were my father's toys, and not to be touched. He would give a little nudge here or a push there as he watched you like bugs in a jar. What is this 'Hell' place you keep rambling on about? I've never seen it, and I have been to many places. Man created that imaginary place, not Slegna. I've got news for you. If you are supposed burn in Hell for all eternity for not following someone's conception of 'rules', save for a handful, you've all got a fiery future ahead of you.

Lucif was thrown down for his interference and love of Moses. Unfortunately, my father's rage extended past Lucif and punished Moses as well. My poor brother never had the time I was fortunate enough to spend with Kalob. My bother's stint with Moses was painfully brief. I don't blame him for his bitterness.

Lucif had done me the favor of giving my lover immortality. It was a blessing and a curse. The centuries went by so quickly that I barely gave them measure. That is, until Kalob was gone. There's not enough blood in the world to paint that portrait of sorrow.

Joy seems to be measured so much more quickly than pain. Then again, living among you, I've learned pain is what you cling to. I can't say I've handled it any better.

I left the cool nights and hot days of Sodom for what is now known as North America. The absence of my wings only stopped me from re-entering Haven. Yes I mean Haven, not Heaven, not that any of you would ever see it. I was still able to move in your world as I normally would. Eventually, I found the most desolate, insect-infested, sultry piece of swampland I thought man would never want.

I went into the ground, slept, and watched fleeting images of civilizations as they rose and fell. I lay in the earth for many centuries hoping my heartache would abate. Then I slept longer waiting for my father's forgiveness. The ache in my heart remained and my father's forgiveness never came.

You made my resting place into Disney World; an amusement park. I would have burrowed deeper but the music drew me up. Late one night, I pulled myself from the mud, and cried out in the darkness. There was much to learn and experience in this new and fragile time.

So much had changed. You had discovered the art of science and built a new world with it. I felt the mud dry against my skin as I floated above you. No, my wings were not necessary for flight. Wings gave us the ability to travel between the planes, and now only my father's forgiveness would take me home. He still stood frozen in his crystalline prison, brooding. Remember, he is a very stubborn man.

I moved through the night and into the surrounding city of Orlando. I bathed in a park fountain and removed the centuries of decay from my skin and hair. My clothing had rotted away, ages ago, during my slumber. I lay submerged in the water, writhing about, until the last remnants of filth left my body. I stood and watched the water travel down my naked white flesh. It felt good to be clean again.

Even my white unclothed skin didn't seem to draw attention. I walked the streets seeing discarded people and refuse. The people of this time didn't seem to notice one was different from the other. I watched you walk past indifferently, your only concern being the wallet in your pocket. You completely ignored the most unfortunate of your own kind. It was a sad comfort that this much was still familiar to me. Your apathy is infinite.

The music called me. A rhythmic heartbeat and screaming melody pulled at my chest. The vibrations seemed to tap my soul. I turned down an alley and moved toward the chaotic sound.

I saw one of my brother's creations taking blood from someone he had lured there. He looked to be about my size and build; I needed clothes. The vampire interrupted his meal long enough to turn my way and stood frozen in terror. He threw away his meal and ran with incredible speed. I chased him as the blur of buildings and concrete edged my vision. I passed by and stopped in front of him.

The impact against my body broke several of his bones with a sickening crunch as he bounced backward and fell to the pavement. His eyes raged at me.

"What are you?" he hissed the words as he struggled to put more distance between us.

"I am nude, and will have your clothing. Whether you give them to me, or I take them from your corpse makes no difference to me. I would prefer them however, without stains of blood."

In the time it takes to create thought, I closed the distance between us and knelt beside him.

"Choose."

I could smell the metallic sweet blood on his breath as I glared into the darkness of his eyes. He began fumbling with his shirt buttons. I stood and backed a few feet away.

"Faster bloodsucker, it is only pain." My cold words earned another brief glare as he hastened his movement. He pulled the shirt off and tossed it to me.

The vampire struggled, finally making it to his feet. His body was repairing itself, and I watched for any indication that he may try to run or attack. He was beautiful, but unlike the life that surged beneath my skin, his held only death. My flesh was a vibrant white and contrasted against his sickly pallor. It wasn't a dingy color. It was more of an ashen reminder of what it used to be, now hidden too long from the light. His coloring reminded me of Kalob, and my heart ached.

I watched the muscle roll across his abdomen as he kicked off his shoes and began removing his pants. His frame was not packed with muscle, though it was certainly there. He was almost wraith-like in shape, looking as though he had missed too many meals before being changed.

This vampire hadn't been made by my brother. The scent of Slegna blood was very faint. It had been diluted many times before it found its way into his veins, though I could see why he was picked. He was striking; his green eyes engaged me with every glance as his sinewy form rushed to its work.

He stood in front of me, wearing only his boxers, and tossed me his pants. I pulled them on and moved forward. I knelt and pulled on the shoes, keeping my eyes locked with his.

I moved beside him faster than his vision could perceive. I pressed my shoulder against his and ran my fingers through the dark-brown hair that fell past his shoulders. I circled him tightly, seductively, and paused on his other side. His only movement was the turn of his head to keep me in sight.

I leaned in, pressed my lips to his ear, and whispered, "Who made you, vampire?"

"Jeremy." The amber tones of his voice were strained and betrayed him. I could hear his fear.

"And who made Jeremy?" I breathed the words into his ear.

"Seth." His answer was a stutter of absolute contained terror.

"Is he old, this Seth?" I began my circle of motion around him again, stopping to face him directly. Barely an inch separated us.

"He is the oldest in the city." He moved his eyes to his feet, trying desperately to avoid my gaze.

I laughed out loud. The sound bounced between the buildings around us, giving it an almost hollow tone. I couldn't help finding humor in his statement. I remember watching this silly rock when it was only a spiral of dust. These creatures gave so much reverence to time.

I saw the vampire's body tense as he posed his question to me. "Who made you?"

He was a brave one! It impressed me. Most would have tried to run before now. I ignored his question and asked another of my own.

"Where can I find Seth?" I let my lips brush against the flesh of his ear as they formed the words.

He hesitated, his breath catching in his throat. Only constrained terror could bring about such a human reaction from a vampire, and I reveled in it.

I don't need your consideration or forgiveness for my sadistic tendencies. You created them. Your hatred created the monster that I am. Your intolerance, your anger, and your unforgiving ways are what birthed the creature I am now. You've offered me nothing but anguish. How could I possibly become anything other than what you made of me?

"I could just take the information from you, but you wouldn't like it. We've been civil with each other; I see no reason to stop now."

"He is at Big Bang. 'Filth' is playing tonight. It's about 30 blocks back the way we came. Just follow the music. It's where I was going tonight, before I stopped to feed." I could hear the regret in his words with his decision to give me this information.

I stood back and placed my hand on his shoulder. I took the remaining damage from his still mending body. The impact had done more harm than I realized.

"What is your name young vampire?" I smiled.

"I am David," his voice was much calmer.

"To answer your question David, I am not a Vampire. I was not made in the fashion you imply. I would ask you one more favor. Go to the club after you have found clothes, and inform Seth I would speak with him. I will be there in an hour."

David nodded.

"I'm sorry I harmed you, and brought you to your current indignity, but I had few options. I am in your debt.” I let my eyes travel the length of his nearly nude body. “Whisper my name should you ever need me. I will be there for you. My name is Asher."

"You're not going to kill me?" David looked at me suspiciously.

"The dead don't deliver messages." I grinned.

"Can I go?" he asked, darting his eyes about my frame and the night. He was looking for a rebuke that wasn't coming.

I nodded my reply, "Certainly."

I am not sure how fast he ran from me the first time, but he seemed to move much quicker now. I watched the blur of him race away into the darker parts of the city.

I walked the city streets and looked through the windows of a variety of shops. The people of this time had made everything a convenience. The variety of stores and markets made anything a person might ever want available at a moment's notice.

I noticed my reflection in the glass under one of the stronger street lights. The tight black denim pants and matching black silk shirt stood out against my skin obscenely. My honey-brown, shoulder length hair had the slightest wave, now that it had finally dried. My black eyes peered back at me from my distorted reflection. I didn't have the striking features that many humans had. The deep blue eyes and auburn hair, but I was still handsome. My parents did not make ugly things. Looking at the many photos of men, my appearance seemed common place.

I may have slept for the last 1500 years, but I did know the goings on of the world during my slumber. I know beauty is used to sell even the most horrible of things. You called it advertising. Use this product and be beautiful. The obvious deception makes me grin.

I rose through the air and settled onto the roof of one of the taller buildings that lines your sky and lay against the dew-coated tile roof and watched the stars. The ambient light of the city hid many of them from human eyes, but I still saw them all. The millions of pin pricks of light against a black tapestry brought back memories of Kalob.

During the last few hundred years of our time together, this had become one of our regular rituals. At least three nights a week we lay on our rooftop, gazing at the universe. The soothing touch of time betrayed me. I felt the loss of him as if it were brand new. I sat up and blinked away my tears. I would not forget him, but I had already given him an ocean of tears. They served no purpose.

I heard David whisper my name, undoubtedly to Seth, and I moved. Even though I can no longer travel the planes, I can move between the things of this world. Whether it is air, rock, or steel, I can pass through them the same, and without disturbance. I now stood beside David.

"Good evening."

The walls surged toward me as nearly twenty very old and somewhat skilled vampires rushed to strike. With a thought, I sent them flying through the air and crashing against the stone walls. Eight of them rushed from their landing toward me, and again I threw them back.

"I only want to talk to you Seth," I told him while I circled the room healing my attackers. I removed the damage from them with the slightest brush of my fingertips as I passed.

Skeletal iron hands held torches along the ancient stone walls of the room. The metal fists may have once held real wooden torches, but now lifted man-made replicas fed by natural gas. The effect, however, was the same. The flickering light bathed the room in a yellow and orange glow, with dancing shadows on every surface. The only true furnishing was the giant throne of cushion-covered stone that Seth sat upon. The floor was littered with satin sheets and pillows of every size and shape. These nude derelicts of life, these vampires, cowered into the corners as I continued my walk through the giant chamber.

"You have many beautiful things Sumerian," I gave a subtle wave indicating the nude vampires that lined the walls, as I stopped and stood in front of him.

Seth's wide-set, slanted dark eyes showed no emotion. His broad nose drew my eyes to his small upturned mouth that was surrounded by ample round cheeks. He was without doubt, Sumerian, or the last vestiges of what remained of that culture. Those distinct features, framed by his jet-black wavy hair, left no question of his lineage. The faint shudder the moved through his body as I spoke the word ‘Sumerian’ confirmed it.

The ancient color design of the torc around his neck hinted at tastes of a long forgotten art form. Its design seemed out of place against his small but powerful black leather clad frame. His clothes were modern and seemed almost ridiculously out of era. It would have been no less strange to me, than if you had put a ballet tutu on a Viking warrior. Even though Seth's skin had long since lost its sun-kissed bronze, the olive hue still remained. I would call him more cherub-like than beautiful.

"You insult me by coming unannounced, and invading my territory without permission, Asher. David will be punished severely for bringing you here." I could hear the undertones of anger in his voice as it sliced through the silence. "It is within my right if I choose, to destroy you where you stand, according to vampire law."

My raucous laughter buffeted the walls and fueled his anger. As the sound of my laughter filled the room, I closed the gap between us instantaneously. I held his wrists to the arms of his thrown, and pushed my lips to his ear and whispered, "I'm not bound by your law. I am not a vampire."

An iron torch holder suddenly burst through my chest and I screamed. I let loose of Seth's wrists and struck the body guards that had attacked me from behind, backhanding them and sending them smashing into the stone walls. Seth stared back at me glancing only for a second to the skeletal iron fist that had been plunged into my back, and now pointed its boney finger at him. The burning sensation was almost unbearable as the tissue around the iron seared and smoldered. One of the body guards had ripped a torch holder from the wall and plunged it between my shoulder blades.

"Order them to stop, or I will destroy you all," I hissed.

"STOP!" Seth shouted.

The impure iron continued to sizzle against my flesh, and the finger protruding from my chest was beginning to bend.

"Now, push it back through." I indicated the iron hand with a curt nod of my head.

He placed the flat of his hand against the pointed iron finger and gave it a quick, but firm, shove, until his palm was flat against my chest. It fell to the floor behind me with a metallic clank. My blood continued to sizzle and hiss against its surface leaving it a mound of disfigured iron. Seth pulled back his hand to see the wound was already almost completely healed. His palm was coated with my blood. Slegna blood is not the pretty red color of a human's. It is black and honey thick. Seth ran his tongue the length of his hand in a slow, lascivious gesture.

I took a few steps backward and watched his unfolding ecstasy. I had seen the same reaction from Kalob, on many occasions, during our time together. He was now tasting the blood from the oldest of things. Seth's mouth tore at his own hand to get every last drop of my blood. The whites of his eyes were now gone. Two oval black orbs stared blindly outward as his body thrashed uncontrollably. His inhuman moans ricocheted from the walls of the room.

"He will be fine," I said to ease his bodyguards' worry. "It will pass in a few moments."

His two faithful servants had already rushed to his side and were trying desperately to hold him in place. My blood had given him more strength than they could handle. It looked like two men riding a raging bull as they clung to the horns.

I tore off the tattered remains of my shirt, tossed it to the floor, and waited. Even in the subdued light my white skin seemed to glow. I felt their eyes pressing against me from the shadows of the room. The vampires were studying me. A faint and gentle touch turned my gaze to David as he drew his fingers down one of the long contorted scars of flesh on my back. He traced the gnarled skin with his fingertips where my wing had been so violently removed from my shoulder blade. He seemed consumed in his inspection of the scar; he glanced upward, seeing my movement, and found me smiling at him. He pulled his hand back sharply and dropped his eyes to the floor. The reaction seemed strangely innocent. I say strangely because, what vampire is innocent? They live by taking blood.

I turned back to where Seth now sat, quietly recovering from his taste of me.

"Everyone out!" Seth commanded.

I reached back to David and took his hand in mine. "You may stay."

Seth's bodyguards looked at him questioningly. He shook his head. I could see the disappointment and hurt in their eyes as they reluctantly left the room. As with any love struck watchdog, they were concerned about their master's safety. They closed the doors and I heard the unseen locks click into place. Seth stood and turned, grabbing the base of his throne, and pushed back the massive stone structure, revealing a set of stairs that led down into the torch-lit shadows. It was an impressive feat. No human or younger vampires could have done it. He was showing his strength.

Seth led the way as the three of us descended the stairs.

"Close the entrance behind you please." He glanced back to me.

I moved the throne back into place with a thought, never breaking eye contact with our leader. He was testing me, perhaps, to find my limits. The absurd notion forced me to smile. I could see the quick calculations in his eyes as he turned and led us further down the stairs. The only sound was the soles of our shoes scuffing against the stone while we made our way down through the shadows.

Our descent ended as we continued to move forward through a stone hallway, with artificial torches barely lighting our way. I couldn't help but think he had given too much effort to make this resemble his Mesopotamian home. He paused only a moment to press his hands against the surface of the giant stone that blocked our path. The stone was massive. It had to have weighed tens of tons and the ease of movement seemed to surprise him as I listened to his sharp intake of breath. It slid smoothly to the right, opening a doorway into a room of modern luxury. We walked into the cavernous space.

The stone ceiling was at least eighteen foot high, supported by giant pillars that interrupted the view at thirty-foot intervals. There were four pillars supporting the ceiling. The thirty-foot square area between the square of them was a rising system of stairs that led to his resting place. It most resembled a pyramid between pillars that had been cut in half and made into a loft style resting place.

Seth glanced back to me. I closed the passage behind us as I had closed the entrance to the stairway, with a simple thought. He would not see my limits tonight.

He led us to a grey marbled granite table that sat in front of a wall of video screens. Ten across and ten down they displayed the destruction of man. Each screen's focus was a different view of turmoil scattered throughout parts of the world. They were moving pictures without sound, giving glimpses of current death and destruction.

"Please make yourselves comfortable." Seth moved a short distance to a large stainless steel refrigerator surrounded by fine oaken cabinetry.

"Care for some refreshment", he asked. His speech still possessed the remnants of the Sumerian pronunciation of words. It was stilted, with the strong enunciation of certain syllables that I'm sure few noticed.

I sat myself in one of the many extravagant high backed cushioned oak chairs that bordered the marble table.

"I do not feed, but I know I interrupted your meal." I said to David, nodding to the chair beside me and opposite our host.

David settled into the chair beside me and offered a barely audible "Yes, please."

I watched as Seth moved through the open kitchen area. No movement was without purpose. Time does that to a body. Every gesture is deliberate and fluid, and his actions proved he had been dead for a very long time. I estimated his age to be close to 1200 years. This world left him few surprises, and I was one of them.

Seth placed the fluted glass in front of David as he held his own close to his chest. It was filled with blood and I knew David wanted to drink. The simple pleasures always kept their kind enthralled. I suppose it made the passage of time more bearable.

I could smell the stronger taint of Slegna blood in the glass. It was far from pure, but still potent compared to the blood that pushed through David's veins. It made me smile that Seth had given the best he had to offer to David.

"Would you meet your end now or as you sleep," I asked.

"I prefer the oblivion of sleep, I'm not fond of pain" he answered me with a smile as he sat in the chair across from us.

David shifted in his seat uncomfortably. I know he didn't understand the inevitable. Seth could not live. He had tasted my blood, and that want would haunt him. I couldn't continue knowing he raged in torment for more, or worry about his subterfuge.

I tore the pages of recollection from Seth's mind violently, and waded through his thoughts like men do anthills. I continued as David sat quietly beside me until Seth slumped against the table. I had shredded his mind leaving him only with the weakest of memories.

"Go to your bed and sleep" I commanded.

Seth obeyed, rose from his chair, and then climbed the stairs to the ornate bed that decorated the center of the cavernous room. As soon as his body rested quietly against the silk fabric, I sent the fire. An angry blaze engulfed him completely, erupting in a spray of ash. His immolation was quick and merciful.

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Chapter 2 Shattered Silk

Surely David understood why this is the way it must be. I couldn't leave Seth at my back after having tasted my blood. The eternal craving for such complete ecstasy would have driven him insane, and create a problem for me. I knew it, and Seth knew it as he ordered everyone to leave the room. He had met his end with his own tongue. Why rage against a situation that you cannot change? Seth had indeed become comfortable with the passage of time. He accepted, and knew, this was going to be his end.

"What the f**k!" David whispered the words as he shrank back from his words.

How adorable. He reminds me so much of Kalob. David's death must be as new to him, as his immortality. He was taken too young. He didn't seem to be the least bit jaded when Jeremy made him. It makes me smile just to think about it, though I suppose, this builds the horror in his mind right now. What a spectacle I must be, smiling after having killed someone.

"You're surprised?" I asked staring into his deep green eyes. They were beautiful. Jeremy must have known what death would do to them. They're like two deep emeralds staring back at me.

"Yes I'm surprised!" his words were strong, but his body had moved an almost imperceptible distance away from me. There's that cute naive fear of his again. "Why'd you kill him?" He is brave.

"He tasted my blood." I could still see the confusion in David's face.

"Seth would crave it forever. He and I both knew he could never hold infinitely against the constant yearning for my blood. Seth also knew that I would not allow him to taste my blood again. So, that was a problem. I do not like problems, so I solved it." My explanation was cold and matter-of-fact.

"Couldn't you have waited?" David's voice wavered.

"Why do you fear me David?" I asked ignoring his question.

He paused before answering; "Because I don't know if you're going to kill me."

"Do I have a reason to kill you?" I saw a slight shudder of fear roll across his face and down his lean body.

David took several minutes to ponder the question as he tapped his index finger against the table. Yes, he was very new to death. His human traits were still so strong in him. "No, I don't think so."

"Well then, you live another day. Though honestly, I would like to have you near me for some time. I have never had a pet. I see how your terror affects you." I paused, gliding my eyes down his muscled chest to somewhere below the table and then back again. "I would hope you wouldn't mind spending some time with me as well."

David stopped tapping his finger and met my gaze. "I think I would like that." He answered almost whispering the words.

"Good." I pushed back the large wood chair and stood at the table. He flinched. My laughter sailed through the air and came back again. He was so easily frightened over nothing.

"To answer your question," I walked away from the table and made my way up the stairs to the bed.

"I did not wait, because it would have given a small problem the opportunity to grow into a large one. I fear my little brother may have forgotten that." I stripped the charred silk sheets from the bed and carefully wadded them into a ball. I didn't want to get too much of Seth on the floor. I laid the soiled sheets down, and pulled open the drawer of the dresser I knew held fresh ones. I selected the red set that was on top and began to remake the bed.

"Where do you think your hunger comes from? You're need for blood? It is the remnants of yearning that burns through you. It is from the Slegna blood that made you. You have a miniscule fraction of it in your blood and the need consumes you. Can you imagine the hunger if it was intensified a thousand times, or a hundred thousand?" I continued.

"You will need to sleep soon. Your bed is made, and you will need your rest for tomorrow." I started my way back down the stairs.

David stood and came from around the kitchen table walking toward me. When he was only a few feet in front of me I stopped and looked at him. I watched his body stiffen as he fought to continue moving forward.

David stopped and nearly jumped when I spoke. It was a small quiver of stress and tension that shook him seductively. "We will have a visitor tomorrow. Whoever made Seth will be arriving. I want you to be on your guard. I am not sure these vampires will be forgiving. It is possible they may try to kill you. If it becomes a problem, I will protect you, and destroy them."

"Don't you sleep?" David looked at me perplexed.

"I have slept for the last 1500 years. I intend to stay awake for a while. Rest well, David."

I heard David's light footsteps as his feet climbed the black and white marble stairs as I reached the kitchenette. Yes, I think I will keep him as a pet for now. If my heart moves, well, we will see if that is still possible.

"Good night, Asher." David words made me smile from their simple kindness.

You humans and vampires give each other a hundred joys and sorrows every day without consideration. I had missed that while I slept, though I didn't realize it until now. We'll see what the future brings you, my pet. For now, you'll sleep. I feel the sun's pull searching to sting my flesh.

The sun is one of my father's many eyes that cast down his disdain for our transgressions. Poor Vampires, you share our shame and punishment without being guilty of anything. Being the objects of our forbidden love has made our curse, yours. As they say, 'Life is not fair'. What's that phrase Seth had heard the other day? Oh, yes, 'Sucks to be you'. It makes me smile to think it.

Language has certainly taken a strange turn over the centuries. I suppose I could incorporate these new and colorful phrases into my speech, but in truth, that would not be me. Besides, would you ever believe someone who has been around for so very long would speak like some common hoodlum? I'm torn. The new slang does make me smile. I'll have to come back to that line of thought at a later time. There is work to be done.

I suppose the main hall where I met the dear departed Seth will be as good a place as any. I'll move these vampires there and greet them when they awaken. A few announcements need to be made. The sudden change in hierarchy might not be well received, but the vampires don't have the luxury of a choice in the matter. Seth is gone, and I think I will stay here a while.

I walked through the giant stone that blocked the entrance. It would deter most creatures of your world, but not me. I can pass through nearly any material as easily as air, except black iron. I'm not sure why that particular metal is cumbersome to my kind, but I suspect it is by design. Most likely it is something of my parents' forethought. I cannot deny that it proved to be a good idea considering my brother's and my unfortunate fall from grace.

Can a pure black iron kill Slegna? I do not know. It would seem that if it were possible, the iron torch holder, which was plunged through my heart earlier, would have done the job well. Yet, I am still here. Maybe if it had been pushed through my skull instead. The thought intrigued me, but was not something I was willing to put to the test. No Slegna had ever been destroyed, and even with this dismal existence I wasn't anxious to be the first. Besides, I have a pet to tend to.

I walked up the stairs listening to my footfalls echo against the stone walls. I had forgotten this, too. The sounds of life around me were absent when I slept. I suppose I was buried in too much muck to think of them. I had slept so long and had been so consumed with pain; the trivial joys were lost to me. There was the slightest hint of moisture and mildew in the air. This place was probably traversed at least twice a day, but dead things do little to disturb decay. That's what Vampires truly are. Dead things made to suffer by our curse.

I passed through the altar that blocked the entrance to the stairs and stepped out onto the stone floor of the still empty main chamber. This is the place of orgies and at the same time the court, where rulings for disputes are made. It's a comical mixture, though Seth's memories explained it. It's a room of many purposes. It keeps a strange balance among the vampires that live between these walls.

This was neutral ground. Between these walls the greatest transgression and the smallest delight could occur. These artificially, gas lit walls had been witness to both, and on many, many occasions. It seemed that Seth had been a connoisseur of sex. His memories pushed the experienced passion between these walls, to the forefront of my mind. Yes, this would be the perfect place for their awakening.

With a thought, I released the locks and opened the doors to this plush tomb. With another, I brought the vampires from their piles of forgotten ecstasy and laid them about the room.

None of these creatures were strangers to each other. By way of Seth's stolen memory, I knew these vampires had been intimate on several occasions. Their embarrassment would not be an issue, nor did I really care. I painted a portrait of sex and death, using vampires and silk as my medium. Flashes of silk, nude flesh, and the curve of muscle, made a seductive landscape in front of me. I lost myself in the view with the same appreciation I know Seth had often felt. It was a simple admiration of beauty.

I sensed the humans that guard this sanctuary, moving about in the structure above. I suppose it was best they weren't allowed below. It isn't the wisest thing to be near when vampires first waken, especially if you might be considered food. Vampires are dead to the world during the day, and tend to wake a bit cranky if they find their resting place has been intruded upon.

The structure above is a club called 'Big Bang'. It's located in a revitalized block of the city known as Church Street Station. It's nestled between some of the most repugnant refuse of vampire and human alike. A few blocks in any direction, and you can find the cast off's of society. Drug dealers, male and female prostitutes, the homeless and other assorted delinquents of the night, dot the shadows and alleyways like decoration.

Big Bang's clientele is a younger group of people known as 'Goth' and 'Emo' and other 'throw away' individuals that embrace their own insignificance. It's a rather bohemian subset of culture that has existed throughout civilization and time. These people were the free thinkers, artists, and scholars of this era.

That is another reason why I have chosen this place and time to rise. Few locations in the world would give a better spectrum of humanity in so small a venue. From here I could witness, first hand, the best and worst, your modern society has to offer. There is a constant influx of people from all over the world that come to this city, but only a special few search out an establishment like 'Big Bang'. I should have thanked Seth for providing such a perfect place before I destroyed him. It's an oversight I will endeavor not to repeat in the future.

Seth's guards would wake first. They were the oldest now among the throng of vampires, and with that, held the strongest resistance to my father's eye. Yes, that ever burning eye is what you call the sun. I placed Laton and Tabor directly in front of the throne, along with some clothing to wear, so long as they don't force me to kill them. It would be a waste of beauty to have to burn them. They were faithful guards, and devout in their love for each other. I would prefer not to destroy that.

I lost myself in thought for too long. How quick the hours go when a body becomes used to the passing of centuries. Everything felt so urgent that it made me feel almost giddy. I suspect this is what drew my father's eyes to you. You do so much during your blink of existence.

I left my decadent landscape behind me and traveled back down to the sub chamber that held my pet. Sweet, strangely naive David lay motionless under my gaze as he slept through the last of the sun's passing. The red silk sheets wrapped around him in a tangle. He had moved in his sleep. This was not normal for a vampire. His body should have no life after the rise of my father's eye. I had seen Kalob do this in the past, but the movement surprised me now. I loved Kalob. This one... I don't know. I guess even my slightest of affections feed a dead mind. Maybe David would be more than a pet.

I pulled David from his resting place and rested him against my chest. His lifeless body fell against me, and my flesh welcomed the company. It has been so long; so very, very, long. I ran my chin along his like a dog might. The delicate contact was so exquisite. David's skin possessed the cold of death, but the softness of a cherub. It made the touch of my flesh to his, a velvet delicacy.

I moved the large chamber stone, with a thought, and proceeded up the stairs, pushing it back into place behind us. I moved the throne in the same fashion and walked to the side of the throne. When they wake, the throne would be empty. The absence of Seth would allude to his passing.

I sat cross legged on the stone floor, off to the side of the throne. I could protect my pet from this angle. Whether they came from above or below, I could sit mid ground. I placed David's head in my lap while I traced the ringlets of his hair from base to tip.

The sun drifted below the horizon and I watched as Laton and Tabor shifted their weight. I watched them nuzzle against each other's naked flesh before opening their eyes to spy their surroundings.

"Please do not make me kill you." I continued to run my fingers through David's soft blond hair.

Laton and Tabor were near mirror images of each other. Standing six and a half feet tall they were monoliths of muscled beauty. Both had striking naturally black straight waist length hair. It seemed to catch the fire's light as they rushed to kill me.

I sent them flying backward against the wall. They rushed forward, and again I tossed them backward. I worried I might break their beautiful bodies or blemish the square of their jaw, but they stayed finally, where they fell. Their stares blazed against me from nearly black eyes.

"It would be a waste to kill you." I paused to look up from the attentions I gave to my sleeping pet, David.

"Get dressed, we have company coming." I turned my attention back to my rousing pet. Sleep was leaving David slowly. He would be of the last few to wake. He was so new.

I watched Laton and Tabor tread through the waking vampires as they made their way to the pile of clothing I had provided them. The sounds of them waking were not pleasant. The vampires had been moved during their slumber and were not happy about it.

The floor seemed to come alive as they woke in each other's arms and spied their new surroundings. The sun was finally beyond the horizon. I stood and pulled David to his feet as he swayed drunkenly by my side. Sleep had not completely left him yet. He rubbed his emerald eyes with his hands like a child might when they first rise at dawn. There was nothing there that needed wiped away. It was just another one of his human habits that hadn't left him in his brief engagement with death. It is a precious trait I hope he keeps for a long time to come.

I looked out as the vampires roused completely from their days slumber. I felt a gentle touch against my bare chest. I hadn't put on another shirt since the day before when my fight with Laton and Tabor took place. I looked down to see David's fingers tracing the faint pink lines across the muscled white flesh of my chest where the torch holder had torn through. It was an innocent gesture and one that made me smile as I looked down at him. David glanced up to see me watching him and pulled his hand away as thought he had been stung.

I wrapped my arm around his waist as we stood side by side and pulled him closer. "It is okay David. Do not be shy about your curiosity or exploration of me, though more in depth scrutiny will have to wait until later." I smiled at the blush that rose in his cheeks as he let his weight press against me. He gazed at the floor fighting embarrassment.

"You will not harm my David." I felt him nuzzle against me upon hearing my words. "What is left of your Seth is in the bed sheets that lie at the base of his throne, and the blood that pushes through your veins. His memories are now my own. If you cannot find it in you to exist with this reality, step forward now. I will relieve you of your torment as mercifully as I did Seth."

"Kaitlyn, I see the black of your eyes shining at me." I saw her body stiffen and then relax as she rose to her feet. "Is this too much to ask of you?"

"Yes," she hissed in reply. She had loved Seth knowing his taste for the male gender, but had not given up hope. Now I had taken away her object of desire and hatred consumed her.

I don't begrudge her the anger. In many respects it reminds me of the pain I feel for the loss of Kalob. It is however, a problem I will not endure. I understand her rage, but I won't tolerate it.

"So be it." No sooner had the words brushed past my lips than I sent the fire. It engulfed her completely and in seconds she was nothing more than a pile of ash falling through the air and collecting on the cold stone floor. She never had the chance to take another breath or scream her farewell. Kaitlyn was finished. I listened to the audible gasps as the vampires shrank away from the once living pyre, now made ash.

"This will not be the fate of those that defy me. Go against my wishes or harbor ill intentions toward my David, and your suffering will be infinite. I have only one expectation of you. Do not become a problem for me to solve. If you have a conflict not of your own making, then take it to Tabor and Laton." I nodded toward Seth's former guards.

"If you find it is beyond you to resolve a conflict, then you two are to come to me." I held Tabor and Laton's gaze until they nodded their understanding.

I moved to the empty throne and sat there. It was rather comfortable for pillow covered stone. David had a perplexed look on his face as he stood beside me. As much as his shoulder length brown hair tried to hide his eyes, they still showed his confusion.

I patted the arm of the throne. "Sit with me if you like, but please make yourself comfortable."

I wanted David near me. I enjoyed the earthy scent of him. He slid down onto the more than ample arm of the giant stone structure, and leaned against the back.

Seth's maker now stood in the center of the room. Tabor and Laton hadn't seen him enter. They couldn't have. He was much older and faster than their perceptions could manage.

I raised my hand to Tabor and Laton instructing them to remain where they stood.

"Good evening Anthoni. I've been expecting you."

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Chapter 3

Wings of Hope

“Well met Asher.” Anthoni bent at the hip, and gave me a curt bow.

I plunged into his mind and swam through his thoughts. He struggled against the intrusion but failed in the attempt. Pulling back from his mind, I noticed the affect my mental assault had upon him. Anthony staggered and was noticeably weakened. His skin had lightened in color as if his body had eaten too much of the blood that sustained him.

“You could have asked my intentions.” Anthoni’s speech reminded me of a different era.

The last time I had heard this particular accent was during a brief stay in Pompeii. They were a remarkable people for their time. They were Romans by conquest, but artists and people of vision by nature. Anthoni was either a resident, or a descendant before the change, which made him nearly 2000 years old. The upturned tilt of his eyes and amber remnants of color in his skin confirmed it. His light brown, waist length hair curled about his oval face and beyond his shoulders. He had a short but slender abdomen that expanded into a powerful chest. His body was almost out of proportion. His thighs and forearms were swelling with muscle, while his waist was almost non existent.

I looked into his hazel eyes. “You expect me to trust the words of vampire or man?”

Anthoni smiled.

My thoughts wandered back to my time with Kalob in Pompeii. We lay in the steaming Thermae Stabianae, our heads stretched back against the stone of our bath, staring up to a diamond dusted sky. We spent our nights staring at that same sky while laying in each others arms on a cushioned bench in the peristyle. I can still smell the sweetness in the air from the blooming gladiolas of the garden in the center of the room. The night air was damp, and we clung to each other more for love than warmth. It was a simple comfort.

A few months later we lounged in what is now called Naples. Vesuvius erupted. A massive cloud of ash blocked the sun and my father’s eyes, for three bliss-filled days. We danced in the streets and made love during the daylight hours to spite my father. It wasn’t really so much to defy him as it was for Kalob’s mourning of his mortal life. I must admit I felt the same loss. Even though my father had never truly noticed me, he was there should I need him. Now both Kalob and I shied from his sight. Daylight was now an eternal stare of disapproval, pain, and regret. We felt the loss of the same piece of ourselves, but defined it differently.

A fluttering tug on my hair interrupted my thoughts as I turned to see David running his fingertips along its length. I smiled as he pulled his hand back to his lap. Blood colored his face, and he lowered his eyes to hide his embarrassment.

Rising from my stone throne I stepped toward Anthoni. “I would like you to walk with me in the city. I’ll be back in a moment. Please excuse me.”

I needed a shirt and jacket. The cooler weather of the season wouldn’t truly bother me, but a pale bare-chested man, with two huge scars where wings once resided, would draw unwanted attention. I turned and merged into the stone throne and toward the steps that led to the lower sanctuary. As I descended through the rock, I noticed the fear in David’s face and gave a small nod to calm him.

This would be the first time we were separated since Seth’s death. He sat quiet and vulnerable to the other vampires. I watched the room with my mind’s eye. Gabrielle and Jonas stood and advanced on David. They were only a few feet away when I all but immolated them. I sent a searing fire into their bodies and burned them enough to put them to the floor. They would remain in a half life of suffering. I had warned them, but they did not listen

I had finished pulling out a long floor-length leather trench coat when I sensed a change in Anthoni. As fast as thought, I stood in front of David. Anthoni had raced toward him faster than most could see, but I was there. I held him immobile with my mind. He floated only inches from me and glared back with raging blood filled eyes. The inhuman screeches coming from what was left of Gabrielle and Jonas filled the room. They were so burned they could not even properly scream their pain.

“Why do you test me Anthoni?” I thrust him backwards through the air and into the stone wall some forty feet away. I was angry, and toyed with the thought of destroying them all. It would have been a much simpler solution.

Advancing toward him through the hall, I pressed his body against the stone wall with my mind. The vampires in the room scattered like cockroaches from daylight as I passed. I increased the pressure against him as I moved forward while listening to his pained moans as the weight of my mind began cracking his bones.

The incessant cries from the shivering husks annoyed me greatly.

“Silence!” My voice roared through the hall. White pulses of light consumed Gabrielle and Jonas sending their remains into sprays of ash.

I don’t possess the patience I once did.

Releasing the pressure against Anthoni, I backhanded him, sending him flying against the sidewall. I turned and went back to David and sat on the large throne, brooding. I took a deep breath and let my anger drift away from me.

“I have warned you all, but some still choose to defy me. Know this. The next will live out eternity in a half life, and the burned shell you witnessed moments ago. I will place you so far in the earth, blood will never find you. You will know pain for all time.” The hollow echo of my voice seemed too friendly to me, considering my current mood. It was simple, and I had no reservations about keeping my word.

“Let me put this in a way you might understand. DO NOT f**k WITH ME!” I yelled the words and the force behind them shattered the floor. Cracks broke out across the stone where I sat, as if someone had hit glass with a hammer.

“I will not hesitate to end your existence. If this idiocy continues I will destroy you all. I am not a Vampire. I am Asher. You are my brother’s creations, not mine. I do not possess the sentimental attachment Lucif has for your kind.”

The silence was broken with the mention of my brother’s name. I heard a brief intake of breath from Anthoni. I stood and pulled Anthoni to me from where he lay. I drew his body to me violently with my mind as he flew through the air and into my grasp.

I traced my fingertips along the curve of his bruised neck and the bone of his jaw. My touch took his wounds. In seconds he was completely healed but severely weakened. He would need blood soon.

“You know the name Lucif?” I peered into his oval, almost Mesopotamian brown eyes.

“Please forgive me Asher. Jealousy and sorrow gripped me, and I acted without thinking. I did not know I was still capable of such rash action.” Anthoni’s voice was warm and subdued as he spoke the words.

I wanted to crush him from existence at that very moment, but didn’t. I’m not sure why. It would have been wiser and a much less painful decision if I had.

“Perhaps we will take that walk now. I’m anxious to see the night sky.” I let Anthoni’s weak body drift gently to the floor. He stood before us of his own volition and stared at the stone beneath his feet.

“We are no longer in Pompeii. Do not bind your actions to old habits.” His eyes widened with disbelief.

Though I am sure he wasn’t used to subjugating himself in this era, there was a practiced familiarity that his body demonstrated. It told me stories of something remembered and engraved upon his nature. He reacted as one of the many young men for hire that roamed the streets of Pompeii during that time.

He was given the blood and had endured. It was no small feat. A human’s mind wasn’t built for eternity. My father had given the potential, but it was seldom appreciated. Anthoni was obviously one of those that had taken my father up on his silent offer. For nearly 2000 years he had walked the night and somehow kept his sanity. It was a blink compared to what I had witnessed, but I respected the accomplishment. Whether human or vampire, it impressed me.

I curled my arm around David and felt his weight rest against his shoulder as my fingertips played across the pale skin of his neck.

“We should dance.” I took hold of Anthoni’s hand and shifted through the stone and metal that separated us from the club above.

A violent beat shook my chest as the song surged. I don’t know why human music has this sway on my heart, but I yearned for it. I pulled David, Anthoni, and myself through the floors to a dark corner behind the strobe of light that lit the dance floor.

I could sense many of my brother’s works in the club. They crawled over my skin like a thousand insects tickling my flesh. In the other corner, I could also sense them.

They were Druid. My father, for some unknown reason, had given them his favor so that they might take care of his play thing, Earth. There were two of them. Artificial flashes of my father’s eyes played across their bodies like bits of borrowed daylight. The blonde’s name was Bryan, but was called Bry. The brown haired boy was Ty.

The crowd around us parted as a spotlight bathed us in a blue-white glow. “Ladies and gentleman, it’s show time!” Jeremy stood on stage and spoke into his microphone.

I smiled and bowed to the audience. The thoughts I had stolen from Seth let me know the procedure. Each night, he would emerge, mesmerize a few patrons, and then send them on their way barely able to remember what had happened. This was a vampire bar, and the few human patrons that visited here knew of our kind.

Passing through the crowd faster than their eyes could perceive, we appeared beside Jeremy. He was the announcer, young in appearance, and handsome. His voice pulled against the hearts of those who heard his words. It wasn’t by accident that he held his position. The evoking timbre of his voice, blond hair, Greek figure, and Nordic features enthralled even me. His voice didn’t have the aggravating edge of a circus vendor, but one of drama and intrigue. He stood in the shadows, shivering, and handed me the wireless microphone. The light was still shining where we once stood, but found us as I spoke.

“Good evening. Seth has retired, and I am the new proprietor of this establishment. Thank you all for coming. We have a very special show for you this evening. Please welcome Bry and Ty.” The crowd erupted in applause as a second spotlight lit their small corner.

Pushing into Ty’s mind, I was met with an impenetrable wall. It was solid and flawless, and I couldn’t glean even the slightest of thoughts. I have to admit my surprise. I hadn’t met such a creature in an eternity. His lover, Bry, however, was an open book. He meant to kill me and I couldn’t fight the grin that stretched my lips. No Slegna had ever been destroyed, and even with my father’s favor, the notion was ridiculous. We Slegna are eternal.

“We are not part of your show Asher. We only wish to speak with you.” Ty’s words were calm but firm.

The contrast between his lithe form and his strong words was strange. It seemed his voice didn’t match his body. He was so wraith like and fragile in appearance, that the confidence in his voice surprised me.

“First, you will entertain the crowd. Then we might speak. That is, of course, if you survive.” Seeing the tension fill his body, I knew my words had an affect, though I couldn’t say for certain it was fear.

Angry, rolling grey clouds of mist billowed out above the crowd. A storm grew along the ceiling as the clouds seemed to pulse outward filling every crevice. Flashes of lightning curled along the violent grey, and thunder shook the room.

“Let the show begin.” I pushed my words through the chaotic storm and they echoed back from the walls, vibrating the foundation of the building.

A second later the druids stood before me on the stage, and a massive breath of tornado like wind blasted outwards. David, Anthoni, and the crowd were thrown back as I stood alone against the gale. I reached out to where Bry stood, but felt him shift and cut through me. Pain exploded along my back. I had felt this anguish once before, during my fall from Haven, and dropped to my knees. My strength left me and I was helpless. If an end was possible for my kind, I feared I might meet it now.

“Bry, you promised me.” Ty spoke the words as white hot pain surged through me, and I felt the slow crawling trickle of my thick blood travel down my back.

Darkness filled my sight and the world seemed to tilt as my mind fell into oblivion. ‘Is this death?’

My mind drew from a deeper sleep than I had ever known. For a short time I was somewhere else, but I couldn’t recall where. I fought to hang onto the fleeting memories, but the images slipped away like water through my fingers. My mind snapped back to attention and my eyes shot open as I sat upright. Across from me sat David, Anthoni, and the druids Bry and Ty.

I stretched out my arms and a yawn extended my jaw in a long lingering exhale. David jumped up from his chair, bounded across the bed and gripped me tightly around my midsection.

I chuckled, and rested my hands against his back as he clutched my waist and sobbed. “Silly thing, I am Slenga. We are not...”

My breath caught in my throat as my wings folded forward and covered David. My wings… It had to be some kind of sick joke. I arched my back trying to get away and my wings shot outward striking the bedside tables. They crashed down the stone stairs into piles of splintered wood and debris.

I pulled my wings in and around David once more. Lifting my head, I shuddered. The shaking of my body sent a ripple along my wings and the white feathers danced with the subtle movement of air. I reached out and trailed my finger along the thick ridge of flesh and feather-covered bone and felt my own touch. They were real. I was whole again. Sobs shook my chest and, for the first time in more than a thousand years, tears fell from my eyes.

The druids stood and moved to either side and brushed away my tears. They moved their fingers to their mouths.

“Don’t!” I watched in horror as they slid their fingers along their lips and tasted the sweet of my sorrow.

A halo of light shimmered around them and then faded. “We’ve tasted your flesh, blood, seed, and now your tears, Asher.” Bry spoke the words like some ancient menacing creature, but his voice was young.

I took a moment to study him. His straight blonde, shoulder-length hair was, for the most part, swept back from his forehead and tucked behind the ear on one side. The rest hung down lazily and poker straight as if losing the fight against the pull of its own weight. His once menacing green eyes now held kindness as he studied me. His nose was petite and rounded, and seemed to fit his face perfectly. His lips were plump, but not obtrusive. They rested just above a barely dimpled chin and a jaw that promised a more square line in adulthood. We both knew that that day would never come. If what they said was true, if they had tasted, they would never age.

I was tempted to race back to Haven, but the body that clung to my waist gave me pause.

“Please understand, Asher. I have given you your wings, not your father’s forgiveness. That isn’t mine to give. You cannot return. I’m sorry.” Ty spoke the words barely above a whisper, and I heard, as well as felt, the pity in his voice.

Looking through the brown wavy hair, I saw his dark black eyes staring back at me. What might have once been colored a deep brown were now rich black circles, like portals into the abyss. Ty’s hair also dusted his shoulders, but possessed a weak curl. It fell about his head at a single length, but did little to hide his features. His nose was more prominent than Bry’s in length and ended with a sharp almost elf like point. His lips seemed to have a perpetual upward tilt at the corners, and looked as though he might grin even in his sleep. He was lean with taut muscle and only a couple of inches shorter than Bry, making him somewhere near six feet tall.

“So then, you had your way with me while I was unconscious.” For the first time in my memory, my voice was tinged with anger, but also humility.

I had been beaten, but not killed. There was no doubt in my mind that Bry had the ability to follow through with his earlier intent to end my life. Thoughts of death gripped my attention, and I wondered if it would have been a better gift than my wings. David’s silk-like hair played between my fingertips, and I traced the curls along their length past his shoulders. Perhaps life in this prison did hold some promise.

“We only took what necessity required so we could repair the damage to your body and further our cause. The veil is weakening and, like it or not, we’re all stuck here.” Ty and Bry backed away from me and stood together at the foot of my bed.

“We have given you another gift as well.” Ty’s lips curled into a smile and he tipped his head forward in a bow as his falling hair hid his expression. “The sun will no longer burn your flesh. We will leave you to other activities and to rest. Expect us again tomorrow after sunset.”

With that, their forms bent in the light and disappeared. ‘The druids have left the building.’ The silly thought made me smile, and I couldn’t contain my giggle.

My surroundings felt more foreign than I ever thought possible. Each emotion or lack of it, with regard to my surroundings, filtered through to my mind for consideration. My bitterness was swept away as if someone had lifted a heavy load from my heart.

My chest nearly burst with acceptance of the past and new possibilities for my future. I barely recognized the feeling. It was hope. I had lost my will to continue when my Kalob was taken from me, and chose to sleep in the darkest depths of the earth. Now that a life lay ahead of me, I was haunted with the fact that the weakening veil might steal it from me. I suppose life is only worth living when you fear its loss. I needed to find my brother Lucif. Surely he would understand.

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Chapter 4

Wings of Light

For the first time since my arrival on this planet I didn’t know where the sun lay in the sky. Ever since I was thrown from Haven, and until what seemed only moments ago, I had always felt the sun searching for my flesh. There had always been that subtle tug in the universe seeking to punish me, and now it was gone. As strange as it might seem, I mourned the loss. It was familiar, and one of the few constants in my reality that never wavered. Now it was gone.

I wanted to go to my brother, but knew the druids would return, and decided that venture could wait for another day. Besides… I wanted to marvel in the vibrant colors of the world with my own eyes just once, without the sting of my father’s disapproving glance. If this one thing were possible… then my soul had a future.

“What time is it?” I asked sweet David, and watched the wonder in the depths of his emerald eyes unfold as he looked up at me. In a way, I suppose it showed a weakness, but I didn’t mind this one.

“It’s almost dawn.” His timid voice comforted me, and I wanted more than anything to share this with him.

I offered him my wrist, and he stared back at me in fear.

“Drink.” David hesitated and then moved in closer and cradled my arm as if it were a new born child.

After a moment I felt his teeth sink into my flesh, and I watched his eyes fill with the black of my blood as he drank. The feather-soft damp of his lips fluttered against my skin and I relished the subtle tug of his draughts. The sensation as he fed was shear rapture and I hoped it would never end.

Folding my wings around him, we moved upward into the dawn. I held David close as he fed, and we lifted high above the many buildings, birds, and goings-on of the world below. I felt his body convulse as I clutched him to my chest, and tears sprang from my eyes. This one… if I gave love a chance, would live forever, or until the veil failed and darker creatures filled the world.

We raced toward the sky and through the clouds. Beyond the mists of the clouds, pillars of light formed and I halted our assent. I could see a hazy image of Haven stretched along the horizon. It was a world I wanted to share with him, and so I let him drink even more. We couldn’t enter now, but maybe one day. Time didn’t possess the painful edge it once had. I suppose life delivers illusions of hope to all creatures with a soul.

We drifted down to the world and settled on a forgotten expanse of sandy shore. Small white crushed seashells that made the sands collected between my toes, and I spun around while David lay in the protective recess between my wings and chest. I held him safe and close, and lost myself in the absolute rapture as he fed yet again from my neck. To describe it as anything less than total bliss would have been an understatement.

The island was small, and the sultry air pressed against my skin as we lingered in our embrace. Moist, sweet scents of wildflowers and jungle drifted past my nose as I gazed at my first sunrise in centuries. The sun had already risen above the horizon and painted the sky with a depth of red and gold I had all but forgotten. The clouds were purple in comparison, and were edged in a crimson glow that made them appear on fire.

David resisted, as I pulled him from my chest, and clung tighter to my neck. He was lost in my blood and had no intention of relenting.

“You must stop now. I have something to show you.” He didn’t hear or totally ignored my words.

Pushing against him again, a bit more firmly, he still resisted. I didn’t know if the sun would burn his flesh if I spread my wings, but I knew that I could heal almost any wound. A few moments passed, and I tipped my head back with my eyes closed, embracing the warmth of the sun on my skin. Stretching out my wings, I let my father’s eye touch David’s flesh.

His pale form bronzed almost instantly, but didn’t burn, and I heard him gasp. Looking down, I found two black orbs staring back at me. He was drunk on my blood and the daylight had somewhat sobered him.

“Turn and see the sunrise, David.” I whispered the words to him and waited for him to understand their meaning.

The deep green that made his eyes glow with life had been swallowed up by my blood, but I knew that they would shine back at me, with time. Even the whites had long since disappeared and the blackened fright that blazed back at me gave me pause. I took hold of his shoulders, as he loosened his grasp, and then spun him around to face the dawn.

“Look at it David. Look at what the Druids have given us.” We stood and marveled as the sun painted the horizon.

It was no longer my father’s eye that colored every corner of life as I looked out to the ocean. Now the sun was only a raging ball of gaseous fire that warmed this little rock as we race through space.

“Take me home, Asher.” David spat the words with the same venom that seethed through him during our first encounter.

“Why do you speak to me this way, David?” I was so shocked by the sudden outburst that I couldn’t hide the surprise in my voice.

“You’ve made this world my prison!” he yelled, and spun around so fast I was barely able to dodge his fist as he swung at me.

“Calm yourself. I’ve done nothing more than give you the daylight. Control yourself, or I will destroy you where you stand.” I still couldn’t understand the sudden change in mood, and I wasn’t sure now if I wanted to.

“I can still die?” The look of shock on his face made me laugh.

“Of course you can. Did you really think my blood would make you indestructible? Did you not witness my defeat at the hands of two young boys?” I had to catch my breath and compose myself.

The hurt and confusion on David’s face begged an explanation.

“The power the Druids wield is older than my own. It was given to them by my father, and through him, my mother. This body is just a thing. Once upon a time I yearned for death and let my father’s gaze eat at my skin, but it wasn’t enough. Now, the sun no longer stings our flesh. Simply because we can walk in the light of day does not mean we are eternal. I’ve learned that lesson quite well.” The thought gave me pause, and it was one I would revisit in the near future.

“In essence… The druids, even though they are not Slegna, are as much if not more than we are, because of the gifts they have been given. There are some things even we Slegna cannot do. More specifically, we’ve not been given the ‘Killing Touch’. The druids have this gift, or at least the one called Bry does. Can the Druids still die? Yes. They, like us, still have weaknesses. This, the sun, is simply no longer one of them.” I stretched out my arm and felt the orange glow warm my skin.

“We should kill the Druids.” David’s voice was suddenly flat and without emotion.

“A moment ago you lamented your inability to die, and now you wish to destroy the one thing you needed so desperately? I do not understand you David.” I watched as he lifted his head and I gazed into his lost eyes.

The whites were returning and the center of emerald green was peering through the darkness once more.

“You just said that your mother and father could destroy us. What if the Druids decide to hunt us down for being the monsters that we are?” he asked as his eyes pleaded with me.

“If you wait for my mother’s or father’s attention, you may wait forever. I gather now that you welcome death, but only on your own terms. You want it there for you at your own convenience. That isn’t living, David. I’ve waited centuries on this planet for my father’s forgiveness. It has never been given, and somehow I doubt it ever will.” I answered him as best I could. In a way, I suppose I’ve had the same questions during my time here.

“I think living is knowing that death is coming. That knowledge is a reminder that we must experience each day to the fullest. Until last night, I did not fear death because I thought it was impossible. For my kind, living has always been becoming more than what we are; to advance ourselves and our understanding of the multiverse,” I continued, and tried to explain, as much to myself as to him, why I now wanted to live instead of only exist.

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Long ago I lived in a place that knows no boundary. My world is called Haven. I’ve watched stars born and fade into nothingness long before this world came to be. My father took a great interest in your world, as did we all. You, as a species, have such great potential, and will some day evolve beyond your physical bodies in ways you cannot yet comprehend. Or… you may destroy yourselves at a moment’s notice. I suppose it is this paradox that draws our attention.

As I watched your minds and spirits grow, one of you in particular caught my attention, and I was punished for it. We were not to interact with, or impact on, your existence in any way. I fell in love with a human named Jacob. Humans took him from me, and I went deep into the earth to sleep. I existed in a kind of half life for centuries, watching the lives of others, like one might sit in front of one of your televisions, instead of experiencing my own.

This time pulled me from my sleep. Your people and this world are at a crossroads. The deep beat and emotion of music in this age drew me up, and to you, the other reason I wish to live instead of exist.

You see, David, it is easy to become lazy when you have eternity ahead of you. It’s only the possibility that it may some day end that gives life true meaning. I think that this may be the reason my mother and father have forgotten us.

You, and this time, give my life meaning. I will not hold you to me. If you wish to leave and experience your own life without me, I will understand. By your reaction to my blood, I suspect your need for it has diminished. Also, I note that you are no longer burned by the sun.

What I’ve given you, David, is your life back. You can choose now to live it, and are no longer cursed to endure the half life that Slegna blood once forced on you.

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David’s voice pulled me from my tale, and I blinked away the hypnotic gaze of his eyes. “I’d like some time to think, and I’d like to go home.”

“Then go. You can travel the world now as I do, by thought. I hope to see you again soon. The Druids return tonight, and I would like you by my side.” I feared he might never return to me, but I couldn’t receive his love if I trapped him by a curse.

I remember the pain my love had given Jacob as he lay smoldering in my arms while the fire ate at his body. I could never do that again. It is a part of me now, but not something I think I could endure a second time. Yet… here I was facing it again. The thought terrified me as I traveled to another part of the world. I needed to think as well about what life might bring, and if I was willing to live it.

The smell of cherry blossoms filled the air as I sat in the shade of swaying branches. Skeletal brown fingers clawed the sky as the petals edged them in a delicate pink and white. For as far as the eye could see the grove painted the land with color. The wind moved the branches as if rocking a child to sleep, and I sat in silence, listening to the hiss as it traveled along each bend and curve of life.

My thoughts wandered, and I lost myself in the exquisite joys of daylight. It had been a very long time, indeed. This place looks very different at night, though the darkness paints its own form of beauty. The moonlit petals, as they fall, are somehow muted in color and seem to glow as they flutter down to the earth. In the light of the sun, they looked almost like thousands of feathers drifting on air. The light of day gives an edge and definition to things that I had forgotten. I had the memories from before I was cast out, but they too seemed to blur with time.

“I see they decided to let you live, even though I advised otherwise.” The sudden sound startled me but I recognized it instantly.

“Hello Galen; it’s been some time.” I didn’t divert my eyes from the shining lights that peaked between the sway of branches. “What do you want?”

“Well, I see time has taken your manners as well.” Doriana’s tender, feminine voice seemed to mix with the wind.

“Hello to you too, young lady. Am I to suppose that all is forgiven, now that you travel together?” I asked the question more for spite than anything else. I didn’t appreciate their intrusion.

“I have accepted what I cannot change. It seems to me that you’re doing very much the same thing, but that is not why we are here.” I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my knees while Doriana spoke.

There they stood, old friends, in a form of light that told me they had been taken from this world.

“Your brother’s servant delivered us to the beyond, though I doubt he meant to save us. The problem remains, however. Our son still lives, and you must destroy him and his lover. We no longer have the ability to touch this plane.” Galen’s words were absolute, and he showed no remorse for the death sentence he dealt his own child.

“So you ask me to kill my own brother, and your son. You know I do not possess the ability, even if I was so inclined to do such a thing.” The absurd notion made me chuckle. As if I hadn’t enough to contemplate; these remnants of life now asked me to perform the impossible.

“The balance must be restored!” Galen’s somber tone sliced the hiss of wind like a knife.

“What have you two ever known of balance? There has never been such a thing during your existence. My father saw to that when he took the darker half and sealed them away on this rock. Do not preach to me about balance, ghost. Now leave me!” Even in death these two maintained their penchant for pissing me off.

“Please Asher, you must help us correct this mistake. We cannot move on.” Dorianna’s eyes and voice pleaded to deaf ears… mine.

“Fix your own mistakes. Do not endeavor to make them mine. This discussion is over.” The wind howled through the grove of cherry trees, and I knew they were gone.

I suppose it’s selfish to think only of myself and those that hold my heart, but that is now my reality. If I didn’t know that my father still lay trapped in his prison, I believe he’d be looking on now with a smile stretching his lips. He always did seem to revel in watching dilemmas unfold and come to fruition. I think the people of this time would have called him quite the ‘Drama Queen’. The notion made me laugh in spite of all my worry.

With an almost forgotten practice, I folded my wings in upon themselves until they disappeared. I could still feel their weight pull at my shoulders, but they would no longer be visible. Standing, I traveled the distance between spaces and appeared in front of the entrance to the club. The outside of the building was painted black, without windows, and looked almost too small to house the considerable space I knew was hidden within. The curved, written sign above the non-descript opaque door read “Big Bang”. Its strange graffiti like letters looked drab in comparison to the blue neon that wrote the words at night.

I walked to the shadowed alcove and then passed through the door into the foyer. A young, blond haired man sat behind the ticketing counter and jumped up from his seat. His hand shook as he aimed his gun at me, and I smiled back into his terror-filled hazel eyes.

“Dude! How the hell did you get in here?” The place stunk of sweat and fear.

His name was Kyle, and he had only started a few weeks prior. He was your typical surfer kid and I wondered how he managed a tan working in the darkness of the club five days a week.

I turned to see another guard emerge from the shadows on my left as a third stepped out on my right.

“Move and you’re dead.” The third man, called Doc, was much older and his once red-orange hair had become strawberry blond from the infusion of too much grey during the passage of time.

Ripping the guns from their hands, I held them aloft and aimed them back with my mind. “It’s good to see you’re doing your job. I’d hate to think I’m paying good money for nothing. I am Asher.”

Releasing the guns, I let them fall at their feet and smiled.

The black haired man on my left stared in disbelief. “How can you… You’re not supposed… It’s day time. …Then you truly are Slegna. Still, that doesn’t explain how you are able to walk in the light.” ‘But where are your wings?’ I pulled his name from his mind and found he was called Patrick.

I read his thoughts even though he tried to shield them from me. There was something deeper that he was hiding from me.

“My wings are not your concern Nephilliac witch! Now tell me your thoughts or I will rip them from you.” My words filled his mind and I watched as he started to cast a circle of protection around himself.

Each gesture told me more. He was many times removed, but still part Nephillim, and surprisingly powerful. Even Seth hadn’t known of his presence.

Many have been born since my brother’s and my arrival. The Grigori are beings that my father placed here to keep watch over us. Their job is ‘damage control’ for lack of a better description.

My brother kept them quite busy for centuries as I slept, but I never paid much attention. Eventually, even my brother tired of the game it seems, and disappeared. Throughout time, our keepers took human women as mates. From that union came the Nephillim, creatures birthed with the innate knowledge of an eternal, but in the fragile form of a human. They are the bastard children of time, and what you eventually labeled as witches.

Their offspring gave way to a line of tainted blood that frightened man, and the witch trials began. It was yet another dark time I was happy to have slept through. The more ridiculous fact was that you never killed a single one. Greed, jealousy, and avarice dealt biased sentences, and only the innocent perished.

Though he was many times removed from the blood, he was one of them. The tall dark haired youth centered himself in his circle and braced for battle.

‘I am Gypsy.’

‘Our power is great.’

‘We do not fear the passing.’

‘Neph guide me in my work.’

I laughed out loud and walked toward him. I felt the push of magick tingle along my skin as I entered his circle, like a dagger through flesh.

“So, Patrick,” I trailed the backs of my fingers along the line of his square jaw as he trembled in front of me. “Are you going to tell me what I want to know, or will I have to tear it from your mind?”

‘Two will come that walk the day,’

‘One with wings and one without,’

‘When darkness rules the light,’

‘A soul will be given in his sight,’

‘And all will be forgiven.’

‘That is all I know. Please don’t kill me.’

His thoughts were without deception, and I stepped back to study him. He knew I could read his mind, and kept what he had to say between us. His work companions would be none the wiser, but already I could feel their concern for his well-being. He was well liked and they confided in him regularly.

It wasn’t a mystery as to why they shared their most intimate secrets with him. His deep brown eyes and benign features were cast in the black frame of his tell tale gypsy hair. Unlike many of his clan he kept his cut short and, though he tried desperately to keep it at bay, his facial hair had already shaded his features with a grey cast.

“Relax, Doc, he will live another day. You, however, may not if you continue to entertain thoughts of picking up that gun.” The elder, orange haired man flinched at hearing my words, and I smiled at Patrick.

‘They don’t know what you are… do they?’ I thought the question to Patrick and waited for his answer.

An explosion of pain burned through me as an elongated black iron lance tore through my shoulder. Gripping it with my hand I wrenched it loose and threw the smoldering remains to the floor. My blood was already making quick work of the molten metal and I moved into the center of the club.

“Protect them, Patrick!” The distraction of spoken words gave my vampire attackers enough time to launch another lance through my chest.

A third lance sailed toward my head and I caught it in flight as it strove to bury itself in my skull. I felt them circling in the darkness as I stood in the center of the dance floor. They were fast and powerful and only mist. They didn’t have form except for their attacks and I was at the center of it.

Another lance launched from the darkness and I moved quickly to let it pass. It plunged into one of my vampiric assailants and his anguished scream filled the room. I spun around long enough to watch him flail and wither into a pile of ash.

Two more lances hissed through the air in my direction and I followed the path of one and tore my hand like a blade through the one standing at its origin. The vampire’s head toppled to the floor like fruit falling from a tree and his body became a shower of grey death.

There was only one left and I felt him circling in the shadows.

“Come out and face me. I’ll make your death quick and painless.” I moved through the shadows and drifted along the many surfaces as I searched for him.

“Funny… I was thinking the same thing, Asher.” The solemn tone of his voice drifted through the room, but I couldn’t locate its origin.

“So be it…” I rose into the air and brought the amorphous tendrils of my body from the shadows and coalesced into my human form above the center of the dance floor.

Stretching out my wings I felt the light fill me and burst out in an explosion of power. My wings unfolded and from them came a light as bright as the sun. The blinding glow halted my attacker’s movement and ripped across his fragile form as his body collapsed into a pile of silvery decay. The remnants of his form drifted away in the currents of air like slices of silent death.

I had won this battle, but knew it was just one of many to come.

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