Slemish Ireland 406 AD
The dark, cold, and wet winter was typical in Ireland. The usual gloom had already settled over the landscape the moment dawn broke the horizon. Underneath the landscape and loss of hope, an accidental rebirth promised to stem the tide of doom. Unbeknownst to the Irish, a bit of luck was about to grace their world.
But that luck would come with a vast and dark price.
The price would be paid into the hand of one of the most vile, hated demons to ever haunt the dark of night.
A descendant of Vlad Tsepes, Kurvail was a grim reaper no one could deny. He cut a swath of death across the land and cared not that even those of his own kind spat out his name in hatred and mockery. He was despised by many, and feared by all.
Whispers of Kurvail’s travels to Ireland spread quickly. No one knew why he would go there. Ireland was a proud but poor country with a spirit that refused to be broken. Kurvail was known to rain down his flavor of nightmare only on the joyous, the rich, the beautiful. Ireland had little to offer such a beast.
Something had intrigued Kurvail enough to bring him to a land he had never before wished to step foot upon. His travel led him into the underground passages, below the villiage of Slemish. And as Kurvail patiently waited below the dirt, his henchman searched above ground for a man their master knew was going to do great things for the Irish, and even greater things for the detestable creature of the night. That heathen would become a shepherd to help lead the vampire Kurvail into the collective heart of Ireland.
“My liege – ” the nervous raider approached his master with a caution he had never bothered knowing … until he became a foot soldier in an army lead by the Master of Death himself.
“Speak,” Vlad Kurvail hissed.
The underling hesitated, with good reason. The last raider to bring their lord bad tidings had been torn to shreds, blood and viscera spraying the on-looking raiders as Vlad screamed his discontent. Once the blood spray ceased, Kurvail insisted his men lick clean his boots and the surrounding floor of every last ruby-red drop. Not one man dared step within Kurvail’s reach after that moment.
The memory of that moment colored every word and movement before their lord and master.
“My lord – news has returned from the field.”
Kurvail stepped in close to the raider; his eyes narrowed, his fangs dropped.
The young man dropped to his knees, his blood ran cold.
“The raiders have captured the young shepherd and are returning as I speak.”
A silence chilled the air and sucked the breath from the young raider at Vlad’s feet.
“My lord and master … ” The young servant’s breeches filled with his own urine.
“Silence!” The vampire Kurvail’s voice shook the rock walls, threatening to cause a cave in. “Your voice pains me. Your words hold as much meaning as that worthless mind trapped within the bone of your skull.”
“Kurvail, I entreat you – ”
“You dare call me by name?”
The vampire wasted no time with the underling. With an almost violent speed, Kurvail had the raider’s head in his grasp and quickly cracked it on a rock outcropping on the wall. The stone opened a hole in the bone allowing the vampire’s fingers purchase enough to separate the upper and lower half of the skull. The action was so swift, the raider was still coherent … still alive and staring at the top of his skull rattling to a silent stillness on the stone floor.
Vlad scooped out a finger full of the spongy gray matter and held it up for the raider to behold. The man’s eyes nearly doubled in size.
“Did this fraction of your brain hold the thought you were about to share? If so, let me assist you.”
With a slow, almost seductive, motion Kurvail popped the chunk of brain into his mouth, chewed , and swallowed.
It was the last sight the young raider’s eyes would behold.
“Tis a shame to waste such young blood.”
Kurvail released a shriek that rang throughout the caverns. His patience for human incompetence and fealty had long since waned. He knew, however, the reward for his plan would be beyond anything any of his kind had ever dreamed. The Irish would be his puppets and playthings. Having such a spirited people under his thrall would serve as a gateway to the rest of humankind.
The plan not only promised Vlad a bright future, it offered him escape from a painful past.
Lower Moesia (Pre-Romania) 305
“Kurvail, they’ve breached the gate!” Tamora shouted above the din of the mob below.
Vlad Kurvail sat atop stone pillar on the front of the Drum Tower. His raging voice was just loud enough for his darling Tamora to hear. “What do you see?”
There was a hitch of hesitation in her voice. “They’ve brought The Saint. A group of priests and soldiers are marching him through the castle court! They’ve brought fire and prayer.”
Vlad Kurvail scoffed at prayer as nothing more than pious desperation. The faithful offered prayer to whatever god they happened to hold dear at the moment, with an unwavering hope their prayers would be answered.
They weren’t. And this confrontation would prove to them, once and for all, God was nothing but a delusion dreamed up to sooth the fears of children.
Before Vlad could drop from his perch, balls of flame shot up from the ground. The flame was not born of man but magic. It was The Saint – one of the darkest secrets of the Christian Church at the time. A magic user with the power of fire at his fingertips.
A searing ball of heat flew by, threatening to deprive him of existence.
“You dare?” Vlad Kurvail whispered as he leaped to the ground below. The earth shook as his boots slammed into dirt.
The ancient vampire rushed the small army, his fangs out, his blood boiling and thirsting. But when he reached the mass of humans and the mage, the sight he beheld reached into his chest and crushed his still, black heart.
In the middle of the group, The Saint had Tamora encased in a fiery blue ball, her skin tanning like old leather, until bubbles formed and popped. Her body finally went limp and then turned to dust.
Tears of blood poured down Kurvail’s ivory cheeks. A howl of rage escaped his lips.
“What have you done?”
“Black beast, we have slain your whore,” the priest mage, known to many as The Saint, cried out.
Kurvail hissed a hot stream of hatred at the intruders. “You dare take from me? You risk unleashing a plague upon your kind that will surely wipe the land clean of your pestilence! I shall spend my eternity culling your herd until there is nothing left of you but bones and dust. I will eradicate you — one man, one family, one kingdom at a time. And then I will wipe my brow with your flesh as the last of your kind disappears from my sight and memory.”
Before the chaste fire mage could raise his hands to conjure a hellspawn bolt, Vlad Kurvail split the space between them and had the mage’s head in his hands. With a swift snap and twist the head was removed from the neck and dangled from Kurvail’s hand. The vampire put the stump of neck to his mouth and lapped at the cooling blood. When Vlad finished his snack, blood rained down from his mouth and the stump of neck hanging from the The Saint’s head in the vampire’s hand.
“I shall relish each of your deaths, savor the taste of your fear as your life’s candles extinguish.”
A sword slashed down from behind. In a wash of dark and cold light, the vampire disappeared from the trajectory of the sword. Kurvail was gone. Or so it seemed. The slashing swordsman stared forward with disbelief in his eyes. Those eyes quickly bulged out and broke free from their sockets, as bones cracked and skin ripped. The body of the knight quivered and fell to pieces on the ground around Kurvail. The vampire had reappeared within the soldier and slowly broken free of the skin and bone encasement.
Covered in the blood and organs of the soldier, the vampire reached out and wrapped his fingers around the neck of a nearby priest.
“Have a prayer you would like to say, priest? I would love to hear you entreat your God as I suck your soul from His very clutches. Pray now, pathetic creature!”
As the priest began his desperate devotions, Kurvail sank his fangs into the jugular and let the hot river of life flow into the back of his throat. The priest continued his prayer, until his veins were drained. The rest of the priests and invading men stood in shock at the horror and power the vampire exuded. Vlad tossed the emptied sack of flesh to the ground and turned to the remaining men with the dead priest’s blood pouring from his open mouth.
“Which of you shall fall next?”
Without hesitation, the group of cowards ran. Kurvail stood and watched, his laughter chasing the living out of the castle court.
The echo of his own laughter chased Kurvail through time, a constant reminder of his need to eliminate the race of man for systematically destroying the only creature he had ever loved. It mattered not he would be eliminating his primary source of food. All the vampire Kurvail could see was the red veil of vengeance. The task grew more and more challenging as mankind multiplied like vermin. His only hope was to take down the scourge from within.
Slemish Ireland 406
Kurvail opened his eyes from his retreat into memory to see his men returning, a hooded stranger in tow. The lead soldier pushed the man forward onto his knees.
“Remove his hood,” the dark voice boomed in the underground tunnel.
With a flourish, the lead raider removed the hood covering the head of the young shepherd.
“Where have you taken me? Who are you strange men?”
Kurvail walked up to the shaking stranger and stood above him. “I shall ask the questions, meat.”
The Shepherd stared upward, refusing to offer any sign of fear or weakness.
“Tell us your name, shepherd.”
The young man looked up and with a nervous gulp of pride spoke. “Maewyn Succat”.
The raiders around Kurvail laughed — and laughed alone. The vampire raised his hand to silence the hideous sound.
“Irish. Just what I need.”
The young man looked up at the vampire, tears raining down from his cheeks. “You are mistaken. I am not of the Irish.”
“And I am not of the living!” With a single hand, Kurvail launched the shepherd across the room. The man slid down the wall and slumped over. Before he could hit the dirt floor, Kurvail was on him, lifting him off the ground by the throat.
“I could suck the life out of you before your mind realized what was happening. I could reach into your chest and remove your heart so quickly your body wouldn’t have a chance to die before your eyes bore witness to your own death. But I do not. And why? Such a creature as I must find a purpose in something as worthless as you.” Kurvail dropped Maewyn to the floor. “You are not a soldier. You are not a priest, a blacksmith, a farmer, a baker … you are nothing but a shepherd of sheep, a watcher of flocks. You are weak and you have nothing. But I have a need, therefore you have a value.”
A laugh disrupted the silence of the moment. One of the raiders found humor in Vlad’s toying with the young man.
“Do you find my words humorous? Am I but a court jester for your amusement?”
Kurvail crossed to the laughing raider. The movement took an uncomfortably long time. The beating of hearts and the inhalation of breaths could be heard. Every living being in the room but the shepherd stood, locked in fear at what the vampire might do. When Kurvail finally reached the offending raider, only one question seeped from the undead master’s lips.
“Slowly or quickly?”
“I don’t understand … ” the confused soldier replied.
“Your answer. Slowly, or quickly?”
The man’s jaw quivered as the answer slipped between his teeth.
“As you wish.”
The vampire smiled as he tore the man’s clothing from his body. With a single fingernail, Kurvail sliced a chunk of flesh from the man’s body and offered the meat for the soldier to devour.
“Eat this, or I continue.”
From the other side of the room, the shepherd could be heard praying. Upon hearing the prayer, Kurvail launched into an agonizing scream.
“I will not tolerate your words of devotion, shepherd. Silence yourself or suffer the same fate.”
Kurvail turned back to the raider who, with a shaking hand, held his own skin to his lips. “Master — .”
“If you are to survive this, the only movement your jaw should be making is the chewing of your own flesh. Now!”
The raider opened his mouth and slid the meat onto his tongue. As he chewed, blood and spit popped and spurted from between his lips.
“Delicious, the meat of man. Although the Germanic flesh has the best taste, I am partial to the Franks. The sounds they make as you peel off their bits are exquisite. Swallow my good man … swallow.”
The raider complied and swallowed – the lump going down slowly, painfully.
“You live another day.”
Kurvail turned away from the soldiers and returned his attention to the shepherd. The young man cowered into a fetal ball, muffling his weeping with his robes.
“My dear Maewyn Succat, cry not. I have such pleasures and grand designs for you. You will not be stripped of your flesh, nor drained of your blood. Oh no … I have a need for you. You are going to serve me in ways you never dreamed possible.” Kurvail dropped to one knee beside the curled man and gently brushed his matted hair away from his cheek. “I am in need of a messenger, a servant. Over a century ago I was robbed of the only love I have ever known. When that happened, I swore I would exact my revenge upon the race of man. Until now, I was nothing more than one creature against millions. But with your help, I will secretly enlist an entire population of people to stand against their own.”
“What do you want of me?” The quiet, sobbing voice of the shepherd was heard only by the vampire Kurvail.
Vlad bent down and kissed Maewyn Succat’s cheek. “I want you to serve me. You will no longer be a slave to the Druid. You will take your gentle wisdom throughout Ireland where you will breathe the words of God over the oppressed and deposed. Give them life anew … reason to follow you. You will lead them from the pits of Hell and sorrow … ” the vampire hesitated and again caressed the cheek of the Shepard. “ … and into my bosom.”
Kurvail laughed softly. The sound was a lyrical music none in the room had ever known.
The young face of innocence looked into the eyes of the dark lord. “I don’t understand. Why would you have me deceive such a poor but proud culture of farmers and peasants?”
Kurvail’s laughter filled the empty space of the cavern. “Oh, Maewyn Succat, you are an entertaining one. Why would I do such a heinous deed?” Again the vampiric laughter echoed from the walls. “Because revenge is a power to which even someone such as I must bow. You see, Shepherd, the race of man stripped me of the only thing that mattered. I was once capable of love, just like you, but that capacity was eviscerated from my soul by men claiming to follow the path of God. At that moment, I swore I would exact a revenge befitting the crime. And you, my delicious young man, will be instrumental in my plan.”
Tears streamed freely down the face of the young man on his knees. His body trembled in fear. His voice struggled to get around the lump of his heart in his throat. “I beseech you — ”
“Oh, do you now, dear sir? And would you beg I spare you from your fate? Beg me. Forget your dignity and beg for a mercy you doubt exists in my cold, dead heart.”
Maewyn Succat stared up at Vlad Kurvail, maddening insanity rimming his tear-filled eyes. “I don’t understand.”
“Then understand this — ” Kurvail took the shepherd’s head into his hands and stared deep into the pool of his lost eyes. “Look within. Dive into me, into my past. Feel the loss, the suffering, the hatred born of centuries of persecution.”
The man was taken back in time, to the moment Kurvail lost Tamora. The suffering of that exact second wrapped itself around Maewyn like a cocoon of despair, and began to squeeze all hope and will from his heart. The worm of revenge threaded itself into the mind of the shepherd.
Between the ebbing beats of his heart, Maewyn fully understood. He would comply. Will was no longer his own, his heart and soul belonged to the Vampire, Kurvail.
“You are my Lord, God, and Master.” The shepherd’s voice was but a frail whisper. The husk of a man took Kurvail’s hand in his and laid the ring of the vampire to his cracked lips.
Vlad pulled his new servant to his feet and gently kissed each of his tear-stained cheeks. “As you do my bidding you will fall under the protection of my raiders. And should you have need, all you need do is call my name and I will appear.”
The newly anointed slave wavered on his feet, still entranced and enthralled. “What is my first task my lord?”
A shameless and sinister smile etched itself across Vlad’s face. “Upon kissing the soil of the Irish shores above us, you will entreat yourself as the voice of God and the mouthpiece of a new Ireland. When you have settled in as their one true spiritual leader your first task is to banish the snake from the garden of Ireland. I refuse to walk upon the same soil as that detestable creature. Once you have managed that simple task, I will begin visiting you to let you know your next steps.”
Maewyn Succat again kissed the ring of the King of Vampires and found enough stability on his feet to allow him movement.
“Now, go. Be my eyes and ears among the Gaelic and infect them with your venomous love and righteousness. Once they are held in your sway, and in the sway of your tiresome religion, they will be but a mere suggestion away from my wrath.”
The Shepherd turned on his bare and worn heels and awaited the raiders to part.
“Lead this man out. See to it he has safe passage. Should anyone threaten to visit him harm, disassemble them with haste.”
The detail parted and the frail thrall of Vlad Kurvail was led out of the underground tunnels. As the group vanished from sight, the desire to rend asunder the living above ground overwhelmed the vampire. The desire gave way to action and Vlad Kurvail made his way to the surface to begin a reign of terror few would escape. He would sate his need for blood and lust and return to the tunnels to await the celebration of the beginning of the end of the pestilence known as mankind.