Shade

My -very- different take on the vampire myth. Set in a low fantasy world bordering on steampunk, a young man is sacrificed by a vicious cult to summon Lilith, a powerful Shade. But something happens that none could have foreseen, that sets into motion a turn of events that heralds the return of the dreaded vampyre, a creature of duality, of shadow and blood. Will Luke join those that would call him kin? Or will be fight against the entity that resides in his very shadow?

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1. Choices

I can honestly say that I did not see it coming when my parents tried to kill me.

My life was once no different to any other child’s life in the Holy City of Gwaar. I spent most of my days playing with the other children of the district, and came home each evening to my mother’s delicious cooking as I regaled my parents with tales of my day’s activities. I was neither timid nor adventurous, not good or bad. My life was so normal it would have been boring if there had been enough time to sit and think about it. When I turned fourteen I began learning my father’s trade as a glassblower, which I set to with the enthusiasm of a boy who knows with all his heart that his father is a hero. My life was simple, and happy, and for the longest time I knew nothing but peace.

 

I was sixteen years old, on the cusp of manhood but in reality still a child, when life as I had known it ended. I will admit that there had been a strange mood in my household for some time before; a kind of muted, anxious fog had descended on my parents and hung over us all. Not understanding it, I did what most young people my age would do: I ignored it, pretended it was not there. I did not see the fragility of my life; the bright cracks spreading beneath my feet meant nothing to me. Then finally the world I thought I knew so well disappeared from under me, and I fell into the nothingness left in its wake.     

 

***

 

I was startled awake in the darkest depths of the night by my parents. They looked terrified, and this frightened me, and at their urging I dressed myself and we left the house. They rushed me deep into the city, past the centre square with its monuments to the Twelve. My imagination turned their sculpted, robed-covered bodies into twisted and disturbing figures of ill-omen. Then we were out to the other side of Gwaar, the statues forgotten as the confusion of sleep left me and I started to realise how truly bizarre the whole situation was. To my growing dismay, all my questions were met with a stony silence from my parents, who eventually stopped their march at an unassuming building, what looked to be an abandoned storage warehouse. We entered through the great rotting doors, and that’s when I knew that something was very, very wrong. The windowless warehouse was practically ablaze with light within, shed from a thousand blood red candles. Robed figures stood in a circle, unmoving. I looked again to my parents and saw that I had been wrong. It was not fear I had seen on their faces. No, it had been a dark, sickly kind of anticipation. Their eyes were bulging in their sockets, and I noted the ghost of a grin at the corners of their mouths as they lifted the hoods of their cloaks over their heads, the strangely red candlelight shedding disturbing shadows over their faces They had the look of the mad. I began to pull away, to escape this place, but my parent’s hands were clenched painfully tight on my arms. They did not want to escape. They had brought me here.

 

I was manhandled into the middle of the circle, forced to sit on a antique-looking chair and then tied to it. I could barely move a muscle, and I half sobbed at my helplessness. And thats when they started chanting, the sound of their voices reverberating unnaturally through the air. I could not understand the strange language, but repeated was one word: ‘Lilith’. My parents had joined the circle and were chanting with the rest, and then with a crescendo everything went quiet. Well, I say quiet, but I was aware of one sound. More of a vibration in truth, it ran right through my body, from my feet to my very hair tips. And then the candles, as one, were extinguished. A voice called out.

“You are either very brave or very stupid to summon me, shadow-ken.” The voice was distinctly feminine and of an indiscriminate age, and was like honey and velvet and poison. It seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere, and held a undertone of dangerous anger, “Sadly for you, the end result is the same.”

Sudden light flared into the room once more - one of the hooded figures had lit a lamp, as another charged towards me. I was utterly helpless, all I could do was watch as time slowed to a crawl, the dagger in the man’s outstretched hand so close that I could count the gems encrusted into the dark iron. And then the cloaked figure stopped. Everything was still. Time had truly stopped.

“Wrong.” I started at the voice. It was her.

The- the what? Demon? This was a Summoning, right?

“Close, human, but alas no. I am one of the Shade. Had these mewling fools summoned a demon, as they had intended, then this city would be crumbling around your ears. Be grateful for the incompetence of your kind” .

I finally gathered wit enough to speak, “Wh -what have you done to them?” I asked.

“Oh, a simple magic of holding - they are aware, but cannot move. It will not last long. I have but given you enough time to." A deliberate pause, "Decide.”

I took the bait, “Decide what?” I said. This was met with a dark chuckle,

“Decide, boy, whether you wish to live, or die. The conditions are simple. Allow me temporary access to your body, and I shall turn that knife aside. I will save you. Or you can decide to die, and allow them to get what they want.”

“And what exactly is that? What do they want with me?” This was met with another laugh, this time derisive.

“You are incidental. Any young human would have been acceptable. What they want is to capture me. But that is enough questions, there is no time. You must decide.”

“But I --” I hesitated as the hooded man began to move again, slowly regaining his momentum.

“Now, mortal!” The Shade screamed, rage and a hint of fear colouring her voice, “Live, or die! The choice is yours!”

I made my decision. Time resumed. The world exploded in blood.

 

***

 

The Shade entered my body with the force of a hurricane. As promised, the blade only inches from my chest was turned aside, and in a blur of motion was suddenly sticking out of my assailant’s neck. My body was like a sudden squall, my movements as unpredictable as lightning on a cloudless day. She used my body like a puppet, yet with all the cold precision of a surgeon. I killed each of them with brutal efficiency, but I could sense her satisfaction within me, and as the blood splattered onto my face as one’s throat opened, a laugh bubbled to my lips. My body moved too fast for the hooded ones to surround me and use the weight of numbers against me, and one by one they fell.

 

Then I was in front of my parents. They were on their knees, sobbing, begging me for forgiveness, pleading for me to leave their lives intact. My body hesitated. The Shade's voice reverberated through my skull.

Do you understand now, human? Do you realise the lie that was your life? Do you see their betrayal? This is the shape of the world, the world you thought so safe, so pure. This is a world where, in the so-called holiest of cities, parents kill their own children for a scrap of power.

I did not reply, my emotions feeling oddly dull. I expected to feel horror or regret, but there was nothing.

I am going to offer you another life or death choice, boy. This time you must decide your parent’s fates. I could hear the amusement in her voice, It is not polite to kill someone’s parents without asking permission first.

I said nothing.

Boy, I will take this as an assent. Unless you say something, they will die.

I said nothing still, holding the silence around me like a cloak, like armour. The voices of my parents fell into the background.

So be it!

I moved. I do not know which one I killed first, through eyes blurred by blood and tears, but the other had nearly made it to the door before the blade met their spine. Then all was still.

 

I stood there, blood splattered and exhausted, until the light of the morning shined through the cracks of the worn doors. Regaining some of my senses, I walked out of the building that now seemed more for slaughter than for wares, the morning light bathing me in warmth.

 

A smile reached my lips. I told myself that it was not mine.

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