The dawn of battle, and a blood red sun rose over the hills of the highlands. The king and his men rode ever nearer the temple, slowing as they approached their target. Many of them knew the location of the cave beforehand, and they knew that blood would be shed there. Needless to say, none other than the king were anxious to see that horrible event. Though, none would defy him.

The weeks before that day, Mauritius had been hunting in secret, despite the judgment of the elders. He hunted not for their blood, but for the iron of their blades, tools, and buckles. He forged the scythe of the content of his victims, attaching it to his scepter and completing the scythe. All of this he did in secret of the rest of the coven; it was best that they didn't know.

The day went all the same for the rest of the coven until the hour of prayer to the mortal gods. Chaos and panic seemed to spread like a virus through the temple at the discovery of the human army nearing the gates.

"Mentor, humans have arrived before our temple carrying blades and fire! Our coven has been discovered!" One of the guards shouted in a restless panic, bolting through the doors of the ceremony hall. The council of elders stood quickly, chattering in a panic, but the eldest sat in place, staring down and muttering to himself.

"This day was bound to come. It was inevitable that we would be forced to defend our cause from the ignorance of those barbaric humans." he spoke to himself in a soft whisper. "It is time we show our devotion. We had all hoped that bloodshed would not be necessary in our cause, but the time has come to decide the fate of our clan. With all we have learned, with all the power that we have gained, it is time eliminate the threat to our race. Gather your scepters and your wits! Today, we fight!" he spoke telepathically to the panicked crowd within the temple walls.

Every monk of the Gaist Clachan Brotherhood stared upward with a blank look on their faces, as if the voice had rained down on them from the heavens, and did what they were told, preparing for a grueling battle, preparing to fight for their honor. Mauritius never moved. He remained where he was, in his last meditation in the underground courtyard channeling the final energies he would need to complete his possession of Vulnus Aeternum.

He could feel the negative energies of hatred, despair and fear radiating above him in the upper layers of the temple and on the field. With every shift and movement of either army, he could feel a growing tension and a heating hatred. He knew exactly what was happening around him, and the thought of it made him wince, nearly bringing him to tears.

His aura consumed all energy around him, an elaborate rune of an ominous violet glow swirling beneath him, and the air around him was reduced to a thin wisp. Throughout all of this, he gripped his newly forged scythe closely and tightly, as though it might fly away from him. He'd always dreamed of possessing a great power and strength, but never did he imagine he would be so forced into it. His dream became his nightmare, one that would captivate him forever.

The elders and their disciples stepped toward the gates, walking slowly for them in grim anticipation of the fight. They stepped through, and from under the darkening hood of his robe, the eldest stared up the sloping hill at his enemies, and they seemed to glow in the light of the sun. The majority of them wore leather breastplates and helmets over iron mail vests, iron greaves, leather gauntlets, and wielded broadswords and targe shields. Some of the larger infantry carried heavy spears and axes, but they wore the same pattern of armor.

Only the king stood out; he wore armor of the finest polish, blue mantles over each shoulder that bore his mark, a chain mail coif and decorative helm. His sword was the royal blade passed down the generations to each new king, and his silver shield was engraved with the royal crest. His geaves were of the same luster, and his eyes were glazed over with both tears of loss and hatred of his foe. He lead the front line, the cavalry, on his own horse, his sword sheathed at his side and the flag of his kingdom in his right hand, flapping in the gentle breeze.

"This field will run red with the blood of the damned. I claim it as my own, my victory." the king announced to his army behind him, jabbing the flag into the ground next to him and drawing his sword, holding it above his head to the wind. "The vampire menace has plagued mankind for far too long! Today, by my blade, your kind will suffer the fate that has befallen so many of ours at your wretched hands! Take up arms, demons! I will allow you a warrior's death!" he shouted down at the cave and the monks gathered before it.

The monks were trembling. The majority of them were peace loving, and they had never expected to die by any blade, nor by any unnatural causes. Only the eldest was truly ready to die at the hands of a soldier. Before his mental evolution as a monk of Gaist Clachan, he was a soldier of an empire now nameless and forgotten to him. No matter how purified the soul, the instincts of a warrior remained a constant. He was prepared to die, so long as he defended his honor and a noble cause. Naturally, he was the first to speak.

"Our race, for millennia, has survived your kind's ignorance and virus-like growth. We have survived battles, we have survived rebellion, and we will survive you! If your death is necessary for the better of our kind, so be it! If our death is necessary for the better of our kind, so be it! Whatever may come of this, we will live on!" the eldest shouted back at the king, holding his scepter before him as it glowed with a furious aura.

The monks were inspired by the words of their respected leader, and suddenly found the strength to defend what they had so devotedly toiled for. The vampires were outnumbered ten to one, but it takes more than numbers and strength to win a battle. It takes heart, dedication, discipline, and the monks had hundreds of years of experience in each of those categories. Their mentality was not to kill, but to defend, to guard the future well being of the vampire race, and that meant defending the temple and the brotherhood.

Mauritius remained in meditation, but grew ever more restless as each moment rolled by. A heat grew in his chest with each breath he took, an anxiety caused by the thought that each second that passed meant another life lost to the battle. Every second lost meant another would-be sage and great leader of the future would die, a loss for the glory the vampire race in its entirety. Never again would he truly be a part of the living, human or vampire, but he could not stand to see his brethren destroyed.

"To war!" the king shouted, pointing his blade forward and charging over the field, followed closely by his cavalry and distantly by the infantry. Their collective battle cry echoed a deadly chill that forewarned of death and despair. As they neared, the monks channeled their energy and formed a dome shaped barrier over themselves and the temple.

The cavalry horses stopped in a loud panic, fearful of the tremendous force before them. The warriors dismounted and hacked away at the shield with their blades and spears, determined to break it. Though it was an energy field, attack from an outside force disrupted the psychic concentration of those projecting it, so it began to weaken. The humans attacked more fiercely as they saw the barrier begin to fade, and eventually, it faded completely.

Mauritius felt the shattering of the barrier, and a terrible chill ran down his spine, having finally been brought to the height of his panic. His fear nearly shattered his concentration, but he felt guided by an unseen force. Clearly others than himself knew of his destiny. Energy converged on him faster now, creating an electrifying sensation that dragged over his skin.

By this time, the two forces had clashed hand to hand. Many vampires lay beheaded, impaled, staining the grass. Many humans lay burnt to the bone, literally cooked by the dark vampiric magic. Regardless, the battle raged on, serenaded by the chaotic sounds of panicked horses, curses shouted over the wind, and screams of agony. A thunderstorm had rolled over the battlefield, perhaps as a response to the incredible energy output, or possibly an omen of a bitter outcome. Heavy rain battered the grass and created thick mud, lighting flashed repeatedly, and thunder clapped in the distance.

The king rode through the crowd, the hooves of his horse splashing the thin layer of water and mud as he rushed past the battle. He could have easily injured or killed many of his enemies on the way, but for some reason, he had built an obsession with attempting to slay the eldest. He would have said that destroying their leader would win the war, but it would have only been a cover up for his new found personal vendetta.

His breathing quickened as he approached his target, and the eldest spotted him over his shoulder. Their eyes connected, and the fight became far more primal. The king was enraged, shouting in fury as he drew back his sword. The eldest pointed his scepter at the king, telekinetically blowing him off of his horse, and it turned, retreating from danger without its rider.

The energy around Mauritius settled, and nestled within him he could feel a new presence, ominous and fearful. He took hold of the scythe and rose slowly to his feet. The force had taken hold of him, changed him. He was no simple mortal any longer. He was something different, something far more powerful. Still, his personality remained, and so did the dedication to his promise of defending his race.

Even the purpose of his promise felt different now, though. At first, it was a personal feeling of duty, a passionate desire to see his race thrive, and his brethren take their rightful place as the leaders of the future. Now, however, it was deeper than that. He felt a spiritual balance that encompassed the world over. He didn't understand it, but he knew that if the humans won the battle, if his brethren were to perish, it would mean catastrophe not only to the vampire, but also to the balance of nature itself. It was the vampires' destiny to win the day, and it was his destiny to make sure of it. He took hold of the scythe, his new key to the spiritual realm, and headed down the hall for the temple gates.

When he emerged from the mouth of the cave, he was welcomed only by the chaos of a battle half fought. The stench of blood spilled in anger filled his every breath, ignored by the winds and waters of the storm. Corpses both vampire and human lined the field and stained it a morbid red, and it ran thin into the low puddles at the feet of the hills. Most captivating of all, he saw the eldest locked in combat with the human king.

His mentor struggled to channel every flicker of his energy from the top of his scepter into a telekinetic force that held back his assailant, his robe tattered and torn from blades and rough terrain. The king struggled against the energy, desperate to dig his blade into the flesh of his foe. His once beautiful armor was robbed of its sheen, and his mantles were stained and ripped at the seams. Neither had the desire to forfeit, though neither had the strength to fight on. Normally, a group of vampires would slaughter a group of humans without a second thought or tiring effort. Though, when so outnumbered, even the mightiest warriors inevitably falter.

As his former self, Mauritius would have been terrified at the sight. However, through new eyes, it appeared only as a dark moment in time, nothing more. It signified only the dawn of his new role in the world, that of the Pillar. After momentarily staring at his feet, he slowly drew back the scythe and thrusted it forward, plunging it into a dark energy portal that seemed to appear in midair at an impact from the strike of the blade. The portal swirled and grew, the clouds grew darker, and the thunder ceased. Suddenly, he dragged the scythe to his right, as if wounding the air itself, and the portal came to reflect that motion. It was as a scar in the fabric of physical space, and it opened wider, resembling the large, hungry jaws of an otherworldly demon.

"The judgment of fate is supreme, and its decision is in favor of the survival of the vampire race!" he shouted over the sharp howling of the winds, and the portal slowly formed a vacuum of dark energy that gripped the entire battlefield. "Heathens! Infidels! By the hand of fate, your souls shall freeze in the void between life and death!" he continued, raising his arms and embracing the wind as it rippled through the wrinkles of his robe.

The humans, terrified, tried to run for their lives. They had never seen such awesome power, and they knew it would surely destroy them. Nevertheless, it was no use. The humans collapsed one by one, and their souls were torn from their bodies screaming and shrieking as they were distorted and banished into oblivion. It was a terrifying sight; human bodies of pure energy fragmented and distorted, reduced to ghostly images sucked into a funnel with no worldly end, and suddenly, when the last of the souls had vanished into the abyss, it stopped, and the wind was tranquil.

Out of sight of the physical plane, the souls screamed no more and became inanimate, resembling ice formations with vague human faces and form frozen in time. They knew not life or death, for they were frozen in the wall between the physical and spiritual realms, the dimensional rift.

Taking a few deep breaths, Mauritius walked for his mentor and helped him to his feet. The eldest was no less than dumbfounded, as were the rest of his brethren. Even before he could speak, Mauritius interrupted.

"Eldest, I have committed a terrible sin against this coven. I have dabbled in the forbidden arts, and I have become an entity that could only bring destruction and chaos. I must depart, but I thank you for all you have taught me. I will never forget you." Mauritius spoke in a colder, unfitting tone. With that, he continued walking, never stopping until far out of sight, taking with him only his scythe. No one ever followed.

Finally out of reach, Mauritius kneeled in place, surrounded only by the natural scenery. "What must I do now? I know not what to do with this power, my destiny, nor even my purpose." He said to himself, almost questioning his previous actions. The voices returned, as he knew they would. This time, though, only the dominant of the two spoke.

"You have done well, Mauritius. However, this task was but your first. I am the will of the balance between the two realms, life and death. You are no longer who you were, you can never be."

Mauritius questioned nothing he heard, only listened. He remained kneeling out of respect, for he knew he spoke with a higher being.

"You must never again be one with the masses. You are but a shadow, an overseer and caretaker of fate. You have no name, no face, no voice. Above all else, your power demands great responsibility. No soul may pass into the spiritual realm before its time. You are the Pillar between life and death, the balance of fate. You must never intervene. As the Pillar, you are now a higher order in nature. You will affect the destinies of others, but never disturb them. You will live forever in servitude, and act only on the orders of your current master."

"You are the wind that blows the lives of mortality in the direction they may go. You are the shadow that looms behind in wait to strike down a life at its destined end. You are fate. You are death. Welcome to forever."

The voice faded from his thoughts, and he stood again, examining the scenery around him. Suddenly, life seemed far more bleak. But maybe he couldn't truly consider it life, nor could he consider it death. It was a whole different existence, one he was destined to become from the very beginning.

He went through self-reflection for what seemed like weeks on end, but the thought of his destiny never once disturbed him. Perhaps his mortal soul had died in his transformation, or maybe he knew of his fate all along, but the thought never fazed him. He could only set out on the path before him, no matter what it brought. It was his responsibility to life itself.

Dressed now in a lengthier black robe and white clay mask that covered his entire face, he hovered high above the hills of the highlands, gripping his scythe as always. He could not appreciate life the way he did, and could not bare to see it, so he rid himself of sight forever. He vowed never to speak again, for his voice was not one for mortal ears.

From his vantage point, he could feel them all. All mortal life forms tickled his new psychic sense, and he envied them. He felt above them and below them all at once, never again to know the joys of their kind. However he considered himself, he was no longer one of them. He was, and would forever be known only as fate and destiny, the legendary vampiric mage, Death.


Scarred by the Devil's Claws