Chapter one

A voice crackled with static; echoing into the bellows and ribbing in the bowels of a once mighty church that took utter control of a hill with only fire and crumbling rubble around it to give honor to its glory. In the center, below a broken alter; beneath withering flowers-that once had been brilliant in colour or perhaps thick with scent, now wilted and fell to pieces in sickly brown to gray death, sat a man. He was wrapped form head to toe in silks of crimson and black, a tattered cloak and long brimmed hat casting shadows down his smooth features face tarnished by the cuts and scrapes of battles.

Around him- beneath him-above him was the skeletal remains of the church, torn to rubble while time marched on; stealing away its beauty with it. The red wood of the walls was burnt from the fire that had consumed the building, starting at the back but not reaching the front where the alter still stood, a chandelier grasping hold of the spine that held the church up and in place. The pews were broken and crushed, sharp spines of wood jutting skyward where the clouds lazily hung, drifting across the sky with little intention not caring about the desolation that spread below.

On every level surface sat a candle, from the floor to the ceiling sitting on shelves, pews, crosses, in the indents of the windows and on shattered stained glass window sills. They gave off a soft orange glow, nearly comforting until the wind flared them into life, making the shadows dance with demons. The gusts were slowly putting the candles out one by one. Snuffing the life out of them.

"What am I to do with you?" The man was lying over a tightly wrapped bundle; cradling it possessively in his arms. The large blanket the form was wrapped in fell open to reveal ivory skin that positively glowed in the candle light. The mans' cloak fell around over the latter half of the slim body held within the blanket, sheltering it from the cold wind that whipped through the building, tossing the petals around them, feeling their wrinkled skin graze his cheek as they passed out into the world outside the silent church. The only noise there was, it seemed; in the entire world, his own breath, and the wind whistling through the pipes of an organ. Then, he spoke. "I almost hope… you don't wake up."

The man reached out and pulled the hood of the bundles cloak back, his hand sliding down the smooth cheek of a young woman lying still and lifeless in his arms. His fingers curled around her blonde hair, twisting one of the curls that now seemed cold and brittle. It was disconcerting for him, to see no breath escape her thin lips drained of their colour and her thick lashes lying against her skin as if they would open at any moment.

She did not stir when a bead of burning wax slipped from a candle to alight her brow. She slept on as if in death, the bead hardening into a perfectly form teardrop above her eye, making it appear that the man had been shedding tears for her.

Turning a silver gilded cross in one of his hands his hand while fingering the hem of the woman's tattered shirt the man sat in contemplation, recoiling when his skin brushed twin marks on her throat. They were holes, piercing deep into her soft flesh at about three fingers width apart. Dried around them was a thin crust of blood, he had reason to be disgusted.

"It is my duty you know," He spoke to her as if she would reply, though it was quite obvious that she would not. His fingers now moved to the cross that lay gleaming on her chest, positioned in the small dip of her collarbone. "But you have served as loyally as I-and… do I dare even mentioned love before obligation? To be so selfish as to think of myself before others… I think I may, in light of recent events."

Drawing in another deep breath he looked up at the candles, over half of them were gone now, and in the fading light as the sun set he would need them, though he didn't have the heart to leave the woman lying so still on his lap to re-light them. In turn he watched them flicker out as easily as the many lives that he had seen lost in just seconds. In this time, the wind was a far less dangerous foe than what the others had faced, what the woman had faced. She had been struck the hardest by the invading forces; death would be a blessing, what she was now facing was a curse. Or even worse than a curse.

Reaching beneath his cloak, into one of the many pockets there the man touched a leather clasp and undid it. It was first in a row that held long wooden and silver pegs that resembled railway spikes. Stakes. At the end of that row was a gun, embossed with silver, below that, a row of bullets, each with the stamp of a cross on the base.

He took one of the stakes in his hand, picking the most intricately designed and beautiful of them. It was one of the few that had been made of silver, intricately carved designs decorating the handle depicting flames and retribution. Looked down at it, it had never been used and only held one purpose that every man of his title dreaded. The very touch of it made him sick to his stomach; the thought of it could have ripped his heart from his chest and made bile burn in the back of his throat. If your partner was ever turned, it was to be used on them.

It turned over and over in his hands as he held the woman tighter in one arm; he had to place it against her skin briefly to get a better hold of it. Having to do this brought stinging tears to his eyes and made the situation all the more real. He had been floating in a dreamlike state since she had fallen to the ground, the last of her lifeblood dripping from her throat. It just hadn't been real, it was surreal. It couldn't have happened, shouldn't have happened. He was waiting to wake up, assured that the warmth of his own bed would be the comfort he needed, and the sight of her face smiling down at him would soothe any fear he had. Yet, deep within his chest he knew, it wasn't going to happen.

"I'm sorry." He breathed, his voice choking in his throat, hands shaking as he held her up. Her head fell back, hair hanging limply over his arm, cascading down to the ground in sheets. Her throat and the holes there exposed to him, sending the shudders of repulsion through is body causing her to shake as if in fear. "I'm sorry I couldn't save you." A circle of dampness appeared on her shirt, followed by another and another raining down on her. Tears fell from his eyes and he shivered all the more trying to draw courage into his veins in preparation for what he was going to do.

"I know-I know I promised you." His voice now shook along with his body; he had been able to keep it steady up until this point but lost control as the seconds ticked away. "I said I would never let anything happen to you. I did everything in my power-you have to understand that." His fingers closed more tightly around the material of her clothes and the blanket. He tried to make her understand, negotiate with her, finding it difficult to do so when she posed no argument to him. "There was no other way- it was for the good of everyone… and it failed as well. I not only failed you, I failed the people. I failed everyone." He breathed and slid his hand up to grip her hair briefly, feel the soft fibers between his fingers as they had been when she would still put up a fight to him touching it.

"This is what you would want… isn't it?" He looked to the silver stake in his hand, the candle light making it glow with the life of the flames, shimmering in deadly beauty. "You wouldn't want to live as one of them… would you? I know we never… never talked of this. We never thought that it would happen. We're too young for it right? You're too young for it." His eyes were back to her face, back to the soft features and lips curved in neither a frown nor smile. Her large almond eyes closed to the world, sleeping through the destruction and death that he had to live in.

"I hope you can forgive me… if this is not what you wanted. It's what the church would want… I-" he paused and held her tighter, the stake resting on her chest, both of his arms around her as he buried his face into her neck, on the side which was free of the bite marks. He nuzzled her throat and placed soft kisses on her skin which was cold against his lips. "I don't know if this is what I want. Would you be the same?" His voice wavered and he grasped hold of her tighter. "I don't know what to do. I need your help."

The kisses came more frequently as his anxiety grew; the decisions welled inside him with fresh tears. With only two choices to take one would believe that he would be easily able to decide, but each would take him down a road he did not want to travel and one would have to be picked, and quickly. The sun was setting with a ferocious pace and after she woke, it would be harder to both put an end to her, and to let her live.

"What do I do? What do I do…?" He wailed softly and sat up to place some distance between them.

He took the silver stake in his hand, gripped it tightly. He pulled down the material of her shirt just slightly so he could place the sharp tip of the stake just above her heart incase the decision made itself clear in the final moments of her time before waking. The soft skin gleamed in the light of the moon that rose over the church, taking the place of the sun as the last slivers disappeared beyond the horizon.

I suppose I should start explaining who I am. Why I am sitting in a church all alone with a dead woman cradled in my arms. And, I suppose, why I'm talking to her as if I'm going to see her again. Those are all good questions. Someone should know my story and all the pain that I've gone through before it's too late. Though, it's already too late. It has been too late for about two hundred years, and I'd be surprised if anyone but one of them would be reading this. This isn't for their eyes.

I've forgotten my birth name over these years. I'm sure it was something that my mother arduously picked out through the hundreds and thousands of names in existence. I miss the woman, but that too, like my birth name is a thing of the past. When you are given responsibility, you don't shirk it to think of things that you will never encounter again. To remember is allowed, but to pine is not. If you have time to pine during war, then you are not doing enough.

I grew up in Germany, though, I think I may be English-once more I have excluded answering any of your questions. I'm sorry. My name is Hansynne. It was given to me by the church when I accepted the task of joining their ranks. It was an honor to do so; and necessary at the time. My family needed the money, our fortune dwindling under the constant war between us and them. We financed many of the raids against them and their forces. Many were successful, but we never were reimbursed for our efforts and it was all we could do to keep from going into the poor house.

When I joined the church, I knew that my life would be difficult, full of horrors that the ordinary man would never see. I was willing to do so, to protect my family, and my country and most importantly, my race. I took this all in stride and with it came the benefits. The money went to my family, the schooling came to me, and the safety and security came to my country.

But once more I'm getting farther from my point, and farther from your questions. I apologize, there's just so much to say and I'm not quite sure how to say it. For as long as I can remember there has always been a threat. It hangs thick over everyone, our entire country, the continent even. It all started when they came. We had known about them ever since the early roman era, but we had never believed that they would survive in such great numbers or dream of attacking us.

To clarify, if I have not been all that lucid, they, are our enemy. By proper name, that you may not know in this age is Vampyre, from Latin though the adaptation of the spelling by the English is now Vampire. The undead, they feast on the blood of the living and may turn us into their own. A horrible fate that I wished to save my partner, my… my Abcynth, from.

Oh-Abcynth, she is the woman who I am holding onto so tightly. She lies now in a state between the living and the dead, a horror of blasphemy caused by the vampire sludge that tracked us down, all the way from Germany through France into Rome. We had hoped that we had lost them somewhere in France, we were sure that we had killed them in a skirmish-but, that is in the past. I don't know where the fiends have gotten to now. They disappeared as soon as they had hurt my Abcynth, leaving her to moan out her last breaths in my hands-and there was nothing I could do about it.

And so, after that, you find me here. Relaying my tale to you, and that isn't even the tip of the iceberg. I-… I suppose I should start from the beginning. Then, this may make more sense to you. This all started about a year ago, when Abcynth and I first met-it was trouble at first sight. At that time we didn't even know each other, let alone the names Simone and Tobias. Or who they belonged to. It was the start of the end of our lives and we didn't even know it yet.

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