Darvick cast worried glances up and down the street. It was nearly three in the morning, and he hadn't seen a car on the street for the last hour, except for the occasional taxi. The few people that he had watched stagger down the street had been making their way to the very shelter that he was standing outside of, seeking empty comfort, wrongfully thinking that they were entering a haven from the cold night.

Thinking that now would be the time, Darvick turned to make his way to the entrance of the shelter when a pair of headlights rounded the corner, and he froze, blending in completely with the shadows.

The car rambled slowly by and Darvick relaxed as he saw that is was just some bangers, probably out looking to score, and he chided himself for his tenseness.

It was unusual for him to be so nervous about a kill, but then he had never before intended to kill so many.

Not at one time anyways.

To be honest, the thought did incite a certain thrill, a burning desire to fulfill the lust brimming within him, but it was conflicting with his preservation instinct. He hadn't survived all of these years just to throw away his life on some instinctually driven ritual.

Like hell he wasn't. He couldn't resist the urge, and he knew it. He knew it from previous experience. He knew it from the burning deep in his loins. He knew it from the way he so longed to kill.

He knew it was time.

Unleashing his inner beast, letting his true appearance be revealed, he bolted into the shelter and smiled wickedly as the people began screaming.

It took him less than a few seconds to silent each and every person.

Leshtar could hardly contain the hunger that was raging within him, built to a thunderous power in its own right by his forced starvation over the last few weeks. It was quite an achievement, for one as young as he was, to have suppressed their hunger for this long, and he was hoping that it would give the edge that he would need to be victorious over the elders.

He knew that it had to be tonight, not just because it was the night of the ritual, but because there was no way that he could contain himself any longer.

There were dozens of people here, pressed in tight, partying and moving to the blaring music, none of them with the slightest clue as to the predator that was in their midst.

He had been to many underground parties during his life, currently called raves, and they had always made good hunting grounds. Their secretive nature offered a security that was far more comfortable than hunting in the back alleys, and always gave him a choice of prime meat.

Tonight he would feast as few of his kind ever had. It would be a massacre. It would be infamous. It would be his bid for the Queen.

Snapping the neck of the armed man guarding the door, Leshtar made certain that the door could never be opened by a mere mortal, and then he stepped to the edge of the balcony and looked down on the sheep.

My sheep, he thought, leaping down amongst them.

The screams began the instant that the blood started to splash through the air, but they blended in nicely with the techno beat blasting out of the multitude of speakers, and the bodies were dropping faster than the living realized what was happening.

Galen smoothed his tuxedo as his escort straightened his tie, muttering a curse for dinner parties that ran late into the night, and then smiling as she gave him a displeased glare.

"It won't do for one of them to hear you," said Alice, stepping back to admire him.

"If I cared what they really thought, then I wouldn't be standing in the coat room with you," he countered. "I am here for one reason only, and you know it."

"These are men of power, Galen. We need them on our side."

"They're cattle, Alice. Intelligent cattle. Don't ever forget that."

"Do you look upon everyone with contempt?"

Before he could answer, the door opened to let the full noise of the party flood into the room, and Galen cringed slightly at the assault, wishing that he had gone prowling instead.

"There you two are," exclaimed Jim Morgan, barely managing to remain upright.

Galen knew very few people that could drink as much as Morgan did and remain conscious.

"Becky's been looking every where for you," he continued yelling, his speech almost, but not quite, slurred. "Come on back to the party."

Sighing inwardly, Galen smiled and waved his hand for Alice to lead the way. Returning his smile with one of her own, Alice led him back into the large hall that was filled with partying supporters for Mayor Morgan's re-election.

Galen mingled through the partygoers, wishing that this night would end, that he could get back to his solitary life.

Alice was wrong in her assumption. It wasn't contempt that he felt for these people, though that emotion did some times rear its ugly head. No, what he felt for them was pity.

A number of them knew the truth and they chose to keep it secret. They let their own kind become meals. So what if some homeless people or street lowlifes disappeared?

As long as the true creatures of the night fed off of the dredges of society, what care did they have?

Drunken sheep.

Rich cattle.

A smorgasbord of the elite.

Drunken partiers began screaming as the vampire made its presence known, tearing into the crowd with claws and teeth, filling the air with blood.

Elizabeth lounged on her bed, an expansive piece that was twenty feet in diameter, and adorned with sheets of silk that were a deep crimson color. Sheers in various shades of scarlet and crimson hung from above, allowing only an allusion as to what was behind them.

She knew that they were awaiting her emergence, waiting patiently for their audience with their Queen, for their opportunity to reveal their desire for her.

The blood that soaked their skin had assaulted her senses even before they had been led down into her private sanctum, into her hidden lair deep beneath the mansion that was home to her mortal persona.

She had smelled the blood of their kills and it had excited her.

Her body had began changing as her arousal grew, preparing for the approaching mating, delivering her eggs to where they would be fertilized by the mate that she chose.

Relishing in the moment, letting their anticipation build, Elizabeth slid from her bed and slowly began weaving her way through the thick layers of sheers.

She had not even seen them yet, the three that intended to vie for her, but she knew which one that she wanted. She could smell the blood of thousands on him. His very being was entwined with an energy that was hundreds of years old, and which went beyond anything that the other two could offer.

Their child would be a powerful being, perhaps the most powerful born to their race in a long time.

Emerging from the layers of material, seeming to actually float out of them, Elizabeth smiled seductively at the three before her. With an imperceptible nod, she dismissed her servant, and the man melted into the shadows, silently returning to their aboveground domicile.

He was handsome, the one radiating the ancient power that she sensed, and she wanted him at that very moment, the ritual be damned! But no, she knew that she could not so easily discard the ancient traditions of their kind, besides, it would add to her excitement.

She would, instead, draw out the time, letting the other two attempt to woo her first with their tales of death. It would serve to build her anticipation, to heighten her longing, and make him all the more enjoyable.

"You," she commanded, pointing to the youngest of the trio. She could feel his youthful lust, his longing for power. It was enticing in its own right, but not nearly enough to overpower the exhilarating pheromones of the other, of the one she had already decided upon.

Leshtar took a step forward, the blood of his kills still glistening moistly on his face and hands.

"Reveal to me your desire."

Smiling confidently, he nodded in recognition to Elizabeth's stature among their kind, and then knelt before her. Raising his hand, Leshtar shivered with delight as she took it in her own, and he felt himself harden with desire, as her tongue slowly tasted of the blood he had shed.

Elizabeth gasped as she saw in her mind the slaughter Leshtar had committed in her name.

She watched as he gracefully dropped from the balcony to land in the center of the filled dance floor, his form shifting immediately to reveal his true nature; a nature long obscured by legend.

The screams were a symphony of terror.

The blood, always the same but also as different as the person it spilled from, was like a mosaic of life to her. In each drop she saw the life of whom ever the blood had come from, played out in an instant, a multitude of images easily absorbed by her senses.

Leshtar had committed an impressive slaughter for one so young, and if it were not for the power emanating from the one she would have chosen him. As it was, she motioned for him to step back with the other two and await her decision, as was required by their custom.

Elizabeth studied the two remaining suitors, her urges beckoning her to ravish the one she had chosen. She wanted desperately to lead him to her bed and spend several hours making love to him, their bodies merging and melding as only true Vampyres could, but she knew that she had to follow the strict procedures of the ritual.

Each aspirant had to be given the opportunity to prove their desire, to reveal to her the strength of that desire in the kills that they had committed in her name. It was an aspect of their mating that had been a part of their history for eons, and it was a facet of their society to be respected.

Knowing that they could smell her excitement, that her wetness was as tantalizing to them as the blood of their kills was to her, Elizabeth motioned for the second one to step forward, fixing him with a gaze that was certain to test his own resolve.

Darvick held out his hands, palms up, and Elizabeth bent down and licked at the blood coating them.

The number of deaths on Darvick's hand was the only thing remotely impressive about his kills. They had been the preferred food of so many of their kind, the dredges of human society, but they had hardly been challenging.

The lives of men, women, and children flashed through her mind, but she dismissed them as insignificant. Darvick had taken the safest route possible in vying for the right to copulate with her, and it angered her to see one as old as he acting so cautious in regards to the ritual.

Caution was a very real part of their existence, but that caution was to be thrown to the wind when it was the time of the ritual.

Elizabeth pushed his hands from her, a very clear indication of her disrespect for Darvick, and looked at him with contempt. Her eyes locked with his, she then spat out the blood that she had tasted from him, marking his actions as shameful.

Darvick flinched as if he had been physically struck, and lowered his head in acceptance of her judgment. Elizabeth had just branded him unworthy, and the only way that he would be able to redeem himself would be to kill her.

It could not happen now, during the time of the ritual, nor even immediately afterwards. He had to wait, as was ordained by their Elders, until after she had given birth. Once the child was no longer within her womb, Elizabeth would be unprotected by Vampyre law.

The anger that burned in Darvick's eyes conveyed that he fully intended to reclaim his honor.

Turning from Darvick, ignoring him completely now, Elizabeth focused her attention on the one that she had already decided upon. He was handsome, in a rugged sort of way, and had a look to him that indicated he had spent a great deal of time among humans.

In fact, if not for the energy that she sensed about him, she would have thought him human. His eyes, while hungry and fierce, did not have that hard edge to them that was a trait amongst her kind. He must be very old indeed to have developed such minute subtleties in blending in with the human race.

Inhaling his aroma, Elizabeth allowed herself to be seduced by his fragrance, by the scents that hung to his body. She confirmed that she did indeed detect the essence of thousands within his blood, and she started as she became aware of another scent.

"You have the blood of a hunter on you," she said, longingly. "They are a breed rarer than ourselves."

"Rare, but not extinct," he replied, smiling at her.

Something in his tone did not seem right, but she paid no mind to the feeling, too intent on finishing with the ritual so that she could lead him to her bed.

He held his hands out before her and she took them gently into her own, dipping her head down slowly, seductively, so that she could lick of the blood on them.

Her tongue had barely tasted of the blood when the life of its owner leapt into her mind, and she instantly knew that something was very, very wrong.

She did not see the multitude of wasted lives as she had expected. Instead, she saw but a single life, and it was that of a Vampyre.

A very old Vampyre.

A Vampyre that had been nearly a millennium old.

A Vampyre that had died at the hands of the man before her.

"If it's of any consequence, he was very reluctant to tell me of this gathering of yours," said Galen, as Elizabeth jerked away from him.

A sword materialized from within the folds of Galen's duster, and it flashed through the air before Elizabeth could react, her head neatly separated from her body.

Galen followed through on his swing, twisting completely about and decapitating Darvick before the Vampyre realized what was going on.

Leshtar leapt backwards in terror as he saw two of his elders dispatched in what would seem to be an impossible action for a mere human.

"You're a Hunter," exclaimed Leshtar, darting about to keep Galen from drawing any nearer to him.

"There is no where for you to go," said Galen, circling, trying close the gap between him and the young Vampyre. "By now my team has taken the mansion above us, and any hope you had of escape is gone."

"You, you, you killed Elizabeth," stammered Leshtar, still keeping his distance.

"And I'm going to kill you, too," countered Galen, reaching into his coat with his left hand.

Galen withdrew an impressively sized pistol, the type of which Leshtar had never seen before.

"A gun?" wondered Leshtar, regaining some of the confidence that he had lost witnessing the impossible deaths of the others.

"Of a sort," answered Galen, pulling the trigger.

Leshtar had thought that he could simply step out of the way of the bullet and then attack the Hunter, certain that his superior speed would give him all of the advantage that he would need.

He was wrong.

The pistol did not fire a typical bullet. Instead, it worked much like a shot gun, its round spraying a cloud of silver pellets that had been dipped in Holy Water and blessed by a Roman-Catholic Priest.

Though not fatal, the pellets caused great pain for the Vampyre, and Leshtar dropped to floor of the lair, squirming in agony.

Rolling onto his back, gasping as every bit of his being felt as if it were on fire, Leshtar barely registered the vision of Galen stepping up and swinging his sword.

As the last Vampyre crumbled away in a flash of flame and dust, Galen returned his sword to its sheath within his duster, and turned to make his way back up to the mansion.

"I guess going to the Mayor's party was a good thing," he muttered, as he began trudging up the long stairway to above.