Breath - the sound of peace, calm and equanimity. When focused and controlled, it leads you to multiple dimensions. It connects you to the past, present and future. It's so blue. That's how I feel. They say energy from the heart chakra, that is – the energy of love, is green, and it is often depicted in illustrations as such. But, to me, it's blue – azure, to be precise, with a cyan glow that fades into white. As this tranquil feeling escalates, I can't help but send psychic energy shields to all the people close to me. I send it to the spirits of my parents in the next life. I send it to the friends who I haven't seen since high school, but still keep in touch with. I send it to my grandfather. I send it to the love of my life – Thrayeth. I send it to every living thing in this world, with happiness and the great hope that they will be protected from the evils of this world. My body is heavy and weightless at the same time. I'm close. I can feel the energy rising up. It's time to block out the hypnagogic hallucinations – I'm not trying to lucid dream. I'm rising. Breathe, Vex, slowly and deeply. I'm rising. I'm rising. Did I finally do it? My leg twitches on it's own. I can still feel the ground beneath me, and the excitement of thinking that I've finally levitated has already kicked me out of my meditative state.
I open my eyes and find my grandfather floating 3 inches off the ground, smiling in bliss. I'd get to his level one day. I place my palms on the floor and lean back, waiting for my grandfather to descend. I get a good 20-second backstretch until my grandfather is back on the floor with his give-me-the-good-news face.
"Sorry, Gramps," I say. "Not this time."
"Ah, that's a shame," he untucks his legs. "I really thought you'd get it this time. But perhaps God thinks you should slow down."
I lay down, immersing my gaze in the intricate design of the temple's ceiling.
"Perhaps," I agree. "I don't mind though – I've already mastered meditation, a variety of martial arts, astral projection, lucid dreaming," I count them on my fingers, "and I can even focus my Prana to make fire..." I bring forth a dancing blaze on my palm, to reaffirm my point, "amongst other things. Levitation seemed like a good challenge. Who knows, maybe actually getting it right would've left me with a life of boredom."
"Really? Even with Thrayeth?" he smirks.
"I wasn't talking in that sense," my cheeks burn at the mention of her name. "A life with her would be a magical blessing. That reminds me – we were going to watch the welcoming together."
"Yes," he looks to the window. "It's almost time."
We wait patiently until the gongs break the silence.
"It's time," I sigh. "Let's move."
We get up and make our way down the stairs.
The voice of Selara Agreos echoes through the hallway. Someone was listening to her broadcast.
"High Guru Deia's invitation to Aum quelled the violence in Bokun only a few weeks ago. Now, thousands of refugees make their way to Nasietra, where they will begin rebuilding their lives."
Bokun was once a nation of Vampires. Now it will be yet again, with all the refugees coming here. The civil war in that country was such a disappointment to me. Vampires have come a long way from imperial-bloodsuckers to a regular race on Donum. Hundreds of years ago, vampires controlled everything. They were the strongest force on the planet, and only a few nations had the magic and technology capable of keeping themselves independent from Vampirian rule. There's a 77% chance that any person living on Donum, today, is a descendant of the slaves that the Vampirians fed on.
That was an agonising life to live – the life of a piece of meat endlessly feeding parasites, without any hope of death. The Vampirians were always selfish with their power, and insatiably thirsty for blood. So they devised a drug called Venothol that prevented the HVV virus from both killing and turning the slaves they fed upon. This created a myriad of sources for feeding that went beyond the definitions of sustainability. No wonder they ignored the few states that were independent from them. They had more than enough. Yet, for a vampire in that age, enough only meant that you were bored. I remember reading the case studies in my history textbooks:
'Sometimes there were as many as seven of them drinking from me […] the bites were like needles. But when the Venothol kicked in, it felt like I had thorns running through my veins.'
'The women were lucky if the vamps took interest in them. They wouldn't give them that Veno-shit so they could change. But, once they did, they became just as cruel as our masters.'
'Sometimes I'd pass out and wake up with them still on me. I felt like I had nothing left to give, but they knew better. When it was over, I always expected to see an old man in the mirror, but instead – an empty shell.'
'I couldn't even numb the pain with liquor. Couldn't smoke. Couldn't shove anything in my body that made my blood taste "unpleasant." They'd give us to the brutes if we did.'
'We weren't just food; we were the workforce too. We built everything! EVERYTHING! Cleaned it too! And-we-got-shit-all. We didn't even get a decent meal. They gave us this plant paste crap. Said it was good for us.'
And then there was a miracle:
'I cried! I was so happy when they said I couldn't have children. It meant: they screwed up. We were their perfect little stock, all this time. But now something was wrong. I could see it on their faces. I wanted to laugh.'
'We didn't know what it was. Most of us thought it just some sick rumour that was supposed to give us hope. But then, we saw it: vampires turning on each other. Each clan wanted to lead. Why? 'Cause whoever controlled the Vampirians, also controlled the food. And they needed control 'cause they were running out.'
'Eventually, there were no children. The last generation had grown up.'
'It was the Venothol. Every year they'd tweak it a bit. Something went wrong and they couldn't un-tweak it. Once we got old and died, that was it. They were losing their assets. And we couldn't have been more happier.'
'They tried cloning us, but we just didn't taste the same.'
'They started treating us like a rare species, 'cause we were.'
'My husband told me how they were planning to attack the independent states, but when they already heard about the infertility crisis, they knew the Vampirian army would eventually come at them with everything. So they sought aid from the angels for protection.'
The Vampirian army attacked the independent states several times and lost every single time. They were no match for the Holy-weapons. Their forces became so weak that the independent states began reclaiming the neighboring territories. After a year of war, humanity pushed the Vampirian Army all the way to Bokun, where they were left. We became a free race. The vampires never once tried to regain their imperial status, in fear of the Holy-weapons. People went on with their lives. Of course, as rulers of our own faith, we weren't so different from the vampires. Men fought each other for land and wealth. The new slavery of capitalism thrived relentlessly. Many countries slowly began to lose their privileges of controlling the Holy-weapons. Of course, the vampires did not exploit this obvious opportunity. They were undergoing a transformation of their own. A group of black mages journeyed to Bokun with the means for Vampirians to regain their power, minus the bloodlust. The black mages begot an audience with the Vampirian king and queen. They introduced the methods and exploitations of psychic vampirism to the royal couple, who saw these techniques as an insult to their heritage, threatening to throw the black mages out of Bokun. Despite the warnings, the black mages stayed in Bokun, convincing vampires in the lower ranks to learn psychic vampirism. They learnt how to absorb energy from all forms of life, including other vampires, animals, plants and even beings dwelling in the astral plane. This type of vampirism was not as easy as sinking fangs into an unfortunate soul. It required focus, control and mastery of certain meditative techniques. It was a difficult process that yielded significant results. So significant, the new generation of psychic vampires was able to stage a coup. They overthrew the king and queen, and changed Bokun into a democracy. Over the next 100 years the vampires' lust for blood would become a thing of the past, as their new lust for energy from the astral realm grew. They would even allow humans to work in their states. Bokun became a prosperous land that welcomed those whose homes were destroyed by human war. Bokun even joined the United Nations of Donum, to officially make blood drinking illegal and punishable. But there were still a significant number of vampires who were reluctant to let go of their heritage, conducting their sadistic blood rituals in the shadows, coupled with the teachings of the black mages. Recently, these particular vampires caused a civil war in Bokun. It wasn't a cause for concern until human people started getting caught in the crossfire. It was gruesome. The horrific deaths of innocent immigrants were making the top headlines of the war coverage. Eventually, those who had obtained citizenship were forced to fight. The UND refused to intervene, claiming that the unstoppable blood drinkers would inevitably win the war, thus they would target the rest of Donum. This meant that resources couldn't be wasted on saving a few people who ran away from their own countries. The resources had to be saved for the oncoming world war. Fortunately, not all of the nations were selfish.
Aum is a nation of monks, spiritualists, and white mages, a nation I'm proud to be a part of. My grandfather, the High Guru Deia, couldn't bare the violence and bloodshed any longer. He made an effort to travel to Bokun with an evacuation team. When he arrived, he discovered that there were a lot more immigrants living in Bokun than the numbers put forth by the media. There was no way he could evacuate everyone. He sought an audience with the leaders of the two armies. He convinced them to declare a truce until all of those who did not wish to fight, and wanted nothing more to do with the bloodshed, could be evacuated. After a discussion, they agreed.
Today we welcome the people fleeing Bokun, to Nasietra – the Capital of Aum.
My grandfather and I make our way through the west wing. We were so close to the exit, but my grandfather couldn't hold it in. He stops dead and lets loose his uncontrollable laughter.
"Okay, let's go now,' I shove him.
"Do you… Hahaha."
"Do you remem… Hahahaha."
"Yes! Every time we walk past here, I remember! Let's go!"
"Do you remember when you burned down the west wing? Hahahahahahaha!"
"What did I just say?"
"Sahaki and Ruju were just about to leave. I was escorting them out, when…"
"Let's go!' I push him all the way out.
He was escorting them out, when I came running to him, yelling: "Grandpa, Grandpa! I did it." I was so excited; I couldn't wait to show him. I was 11.
"What did you do, my Son?"
"I learned the fire elemental spell! Fire!" I summoned a ball of fire in my hands.
"Ha – that's my boy! Marvelous! Marvelous!" my grandfather was overjoyed.
Sahaki and Ruju were impressed too. Though, Sahaki smiled as if he'd always expected it of me.
"I also learned – fira!" The ball in my hands grew bigger! My audience was speechless. Sahaki's usually narrow eyes were as wide as his mouth. Ruju started to sweat.
"That's beyond marvelous, Vex! I'm so proud of you," said my grandfather.
"And last, but not least – FIRAGA!" The ball of fire burst, setting fire to the whole west wing. My grandfather and Sahaki were amazed, but Ruju was more concerned for the temple – well, that's what his frantic screaming told me. I was shocked. I felt so bad watching the statues melt. I was too paralysed to do anything. When the monks finally put out the fire, it had already taken the west wing. Although my grandfather and Sahaki took it well, I got the scolding of my life from Ruju, who was then scolded by Sahaki, his master.
"Leave the boy alone, Ruju. You're just jealous of his feat!"
"Master, he burned down a whole wing of the sacred temple!"
"These temples were once ruins until we restored them. We can restore them again. Besides, meditating gets boring after a while, the monks could use some hard labour," he winked at me.
Ruju continually stressed the danger of my lack of control, until it was decided that I would go to Praes with him and Sahaki for a month – to learn control over my abilities. I was unwilling at first, but my grandfather told me to go and see the beautiful city. It was indeed beautiful, but I was only able to awe on the way in and out. I spent the rest of the month in the temple harshly training with Ruju – that old fart.
Our stroll leads us to the park. A family of tourists was arguing with the keeper at the entrance. Naturally, we slowed down to take in the drama.
"Why can't we take our phones in?" asks the father.
"It would disrupt the essence of the park, my friend," replies the keeper, delightfully.
"And what 'essence' would that be?" asks his daughter – Princess Haughtiness.
"The essence of enjoying the park without distractions, dear girl."
"How the heck are we supposed to take pictures?" she asks.
"Pictures? For what?" asks the keeper, with an insincere confusion that makes me smile.
"For memories!" says the mother, excitedly.
"Yeah, and so people can see what we're doing, and stuff," adds the daughter.
"I hate pictures. Let's just go inside," groans the son.
"All of your experiences are stored up here," the keeper taps his temple. "And the fruits of meditation will provide easy access to them. Please enjoy the park."
They unenthusiastically place their phones in the box held by the keeper and head inside. We greet the keeper and do the same. The grounds are balanced by the peace of Tai Chi and yoga, as well as the children's ardour in their games. Families and friends picnicked too. It wasn't long till Lester found me, wanting to exclusively showcase his new ability.
"Alright, Vex, you ready?"
"Sure, let's see."
"Aero!" the leaves gently swirl around him.
"Not bad, not bad," I exaggerate my impression. But I'm impressed nonetheless. He was only 10 after all. He reminded me of myself at his age.
"Don't believe his nonsense, Vex. It's just the wind," says his twin sister, Lillian.
"No it's not! She's just jealous, Vex."
"Then why don't you practise inside?"
"Maybe I will. And I'll blow all your panties away! Then you'll have to wear diapers!"
"I'll wear yours!"
"Alright you two, break it up," I separate them.
A huge shadow brushes over us. The Vampirian ship astonishes the people. It hovers above the park, engines wheezing. The doors open, and a suited man jumps out nonchalantly, accompanied by a few guards. They land in an open area, greeted by cheers and clapping.
"Toran? Is that you?" asks by grandfather, making his way to the stylish vampire with the group of monks he'd been previously conversing with.
"It's Deputy President Toran now, old friend."
"My goodness, it's been ages!" says my grandfather, after an unorthodox hug. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, I've come to escort you to the gates, of course. And make sure things go swimmingly."
"Ho-hoh, but that's my grandson's job," he teases, gesturing to me.
"Look at this! Deia, is this the same boy you used to bring to the General Assemblies?"
"Yep," I shake his hand. "It's good to see you again, Minis… I mean: Deputy President."
"Time really does fly, even when you're a vampire."
We make our way to the city gates, accompanied by the high monks and Toran's men. My grandfather tells Toran about the city. We come to the statue of Narasimha in Town Square. Thrayeth's house isn't far from here. This is where I'll separate.
"This statue is a monument to the founder of Aum: Taiyo Hikari, or as he's famously known – the Man Who Wore the Sun on His Face."
"Sorry to interrupt, Gramps, but I'll be going now. I'll see you later."
"Of course, of course, my boy. Be off. You've kept her waiting long enough. Now," he turns to Toran, "as I was saying, his tale is quite legendary…"
I tried my best not to bump into any of the crowds that gathered for the welcoming. Thrayeth's street is only a block away. She stayed in the second story of the dwelling. I arrive at the stairs, but the crowds had already occupied it, so I decide to take the ladder. I'm as eager as ever to see her. My heart throbs harder with each rung. As I grip the last one, her beaming beauty halts my ascension.
"Boo!" Thrayeth giggles, dedicating herself to helping me up.
"How long have you been waiting to do that?"
"Not long," she squeezes me. "But, every second seems like an eternity when I'm waiting for you."
I stare at the glow only I can give her. My butterflies dance. I move that rogue strand away from her face, brushing my fingers across her cheeks.
"I missed you, my Love," she says, taking in the warmth of my hand. "You spend way too much time in that temple."
"Well, absence makes the heart grow fonder."
"I don't have a heart to grow, I gave it to you."
"Yes you do! I gave you mine," I chuckle.
"It's too good for me; I'm keeping it in a safe place," her fingertips trace the contours of my neck. My soul could rise to heaven; my body could fall into the clouds. This woman relaxes me into weakness.
"What's the safer place than you?"
She simpers sinisterly. "With Vori, of course!" she's so amused with herself.
"Haha, and there goes the moment."
"What? You know how much he loves you, deep down."
The sliding doors open behind us, pouring the sunset onto Vorigan's ever-moody face.
"Speak of the gloomy… How's it going, Vorigan?" I half-wave.
"Oh my God, why do I always end up catching you two?" he immediately turns around, slamming the door.
"What's with the bo? Is he on guard duty?" Vorigan always brought out my sarcasm.
"Hey, leave my big bro alone. At least someone's here, protecting me."
"Yeah, 'cause you need protecting in the safest city in the world," I smirk.
She smiles. "We're standing around like idiots, when there's a perfectly good ledge to exploit."
We sit down, immersing our gaze in the excitement. We have a perfect view of the gates. I could even see my grandfather, and his recently acquired party, making their way to unseal the locks. Gramps had a bo of his own. Although, our nation produced some of the world's most advanced technology, we still integrated the restored ancients into our modern world. The dwellings were one example; the gates were another. The bo my grandfather carried was also the lever of the mechanism that would open the gates. Fleets of Vampirian-carriers slowly descend outside the city walls, one by one. The already-cheering crowds up their exuberance. My grandfather reaches the mechanism and places the bo in the opening. The locks unwind loudly, dampening the cheers. He strenuously shifts the lever, and the gates start to open. Flights of refugees enter the city at a steady pace. The people of Nasietra shower their new friends with flower petals. The refugees are accompanied by Vampirian troops, no doubt ensuring the safety of the people if any blood drinkers hid in the masses. It wasn't long till the people were passing right beneath us. Thrayeth and I wave. You can see the mixture of fatigue and relief in their faces. I hope they have enough energy to enjoy the evening's celebration – they deserved a swift escape from, what would hopefully be, the last traumatic chapters of their lives. The sky buzzes with the news heli-crusers. They weren't allowed to land and interview the people, but they could record the welcoming, and the activities that followed, from above.
Deia sank into the sights below. Knowing these people were far from the violence in Bokun brought him great contentment. Though they were safe, if they truly wished to prosper in their new home, they would have to learn the ways of the locals. It would be challenging, but Deia believed with all his heart that every refugee that stepped through the gates of Nasietra had a shimmering future here. Why else would God allow them to come this far? Toran took in the surroundings deeply.
"This truly is a blissful place, Deia. You deserve the rights to wield the Holy-weapons."
Deia is amused that Toran would make such a statement. "We have no weapons here, my friend. We are a nation of peace."
"Then what would you call those?" Toran gestures to the monks wielding staffs.
Deia laughs. "Our techniques can be used for self defense. Yet, the fighting we encourage here is the type that resolves the pain of the soul's yearning to be with the Absolute. Our conflict rages within us, and we try our hardest to keep it there where it will inevitably be expelled by the will of God."
"Come now, Deia, it's that very way of thinking that makes you the perfect target. How is it that your nation hasn't been plagued by war?"
"Well, my friend, we are kept safe by the walls. But more importantly, we pray for our safety too, and the nurturing ether we release back into the universe when we meditate brings us God's blessings."
"Mmmm, I see. Well, you certainly haven't changed much, Deia."
Thrayeth places her hand on my thigh, bringing me out of my ponderings.
"You know Vex, more people in the city means: more girls."
"This is true," I smirk, knowing where she's going. "And so?"
"More girls means: more competition for me, as if I didn't have any already," her eyes are as playful as ever.
"Yeah, but I'm sure you'll do alright."
"Gasp, What? I set you up for the perfect moment to make me feel like the only girl in the world, and-you-shoot-it-down-like-that! This is about the Vori thing, isn't it?"
I chuckle. "No ways! I'm not vengeful. Here," I give her a patterned envelope from my pocket. "I was going to give you this a little later, but I think you've earned an earlier read."
She grabs it like lightning. "Yes! Another one! You are amazing, my handsome," she smoothens a clump of my spikes, but quickly turns her attention to the letter.
The joy in the air is ceaseless. I breathe it in, while Thrayeth opens her gift.
"Alright, here it goes," she began "To my dearest Thray, The warmest light of my day. I can't believe we've come so far. From the friends who nurtured each other's scars, to the souls who now burn as one star…"
Every line she reads draws her closer into the page. I love to watch her read my poems. I love to watch the expressions she never knew she made. But hearing my words in her voice would always overwhelm me, and I'd eventually have to look away, for the butterflies to settle. I notice a soldier who refused to part his gaze with the woman he was walking beside. She looked uneasy.
"All I wanted was to be your friend. Someone you could vent to and rely on till the end. But you showed me an allure that left me breathless. Beyond your pain, you had immense kindness…"
The Vampirian-carriers took flight. The last of the refugees had entered the city.
Deia searches the crowd from atop.
"Are you looking for someone?" asks Toran.
"The group I came with to Bokun. They offered to stay behind and aid in the transport. The last ship's taken off and I don't see them anywhere," says Deia, pulling his beard.
"Fret not, old man, they're being dropped off over there," Toran points to a ship hovering above the city.
"Excellent! Then I shall close the gates."
The gates moan shut. I can see my grandfather struggling to get his bo out the mechanism, but he eventually does. Thrayeth continues to read her piece.
"The winter night of our first dance, was not enough to keep your love from melting my heart. There was a moment that night, I'll never forget…"
The carrier's doors open, unveiling the troops who held the limp bodies of monks.
"I couldn't dance anymore, I just wanted to stare. And I saw a vision of you with jewels and flowers in your hair. And that's when I realised there was no mistake. I knew you were my twin flame…"
The soldiers bring the bodies close to the edge, and fling them out.
"My one and only soulmate!" Thrayeth looks up, but I cover her eyes. I don't want her to see them crash into the crowd. The cheers turn into panic. There isn't any blood. Their ghoulish bodies confirm it too – they were killed by vampires.
The soldiers attack the people, biting into some, throwing most into the carriers. Vampirian attack ships drop in, firing missiles into the buildings. Vex and Thrayeth take cover. Deia could not fathom the horror. His bo supports his frailness.
"Why, Toran?" he demands.
"It will be over soon, old man," he grabs Deia at his robes and strikes at his neck.
Deia shifts to dodge, and strikes Toran's side with the bo.
"Argh!" Toran keeps his grip firm.
Deia grabs Toran's wrist and pivots his body reversely, forcing Toran into a full lock. Toran is slammed into the floor, where Deia keeps him pinned.
"You've already lost the war, haven't you?"
Toran laughs, his head is turned away from Deia. "Lost? We've won, by my hand. I killed the president. I killed the vampire king. Bokun belongs to me, and so does Queen Voltamona!" he sharply twists, fangs bared.
"Ugh!" Toran pierces into Deia's hand, forcing him to withdraw.
The blasts left my ears ringing and my vision a blur. As a slowly gather my bearings, I see Vorigan helping Thrayeth to her feet. I get up. The buildings we had just faced were now in flames, setting the night alight. Screams set the tone of the chaos. The obsessed soldier aggressively pulls the woman he stalked. She tearfully fights back.
"We have to go, Vex!" yells Thrayeth, clasping my face.
I look to the platform I last saw my grandfather on. He's still alive, but in trouble. The high monks had vanished. Toran and his men were circling him.
"I have to save him, Thray!"
She grabs my hand. "Are you mad? They're vampires! They'll kill you! Or worse."
"The Queen? She put you up to this, didn't she?" Deia's backed to the ledge. "She's evil Toran! You musn't…"
Toran bursts forward, seizing Deia's face. "Shut it, old man," he pulls out a small jet injector. "Here, have some Venothol," he shoves it into Deia's neck.
"He's the only family I have left." I place my foot on the ledge. "Sahaki will send carriers. Get to the clearing beyond the city."
She shakes her head. "He'd want your safety above all, but… Your heart was always bigger than your head," she frowns.
"I'll leave her in your care, Vorigan," I jump and scream: "I love you!" before landing on the harassing soldier. I help the woman up. "Go, get out of here!"
She envelops my hand. "Thank you so much!" She's off.
Before I can do the same, something grabs my shoulder. The impact wasn't enough to knock him out.
"Where're you going, you little shit?" he grabs me by my shirt.
I raise my hand to his face. "Fira!"
His fangs gleam through the smoke. "Nice try."
Shit. That should've worked. He didn't even have any burns to heal. He presses a button on his earpiece and it scans me.
"Boss, is this the boy?"
"Excellent, Nicodemus! Bring him up."
That was Toran's voice. That bastard! Nicodemus manifests his wings, creating a haze of black smoke. We take flight. I can see the monks fleeing the Vampirian brutes, a hulk-ish subspecies of vampire. The soldiers' mouths run red. They force the people into carriers. Toran holds my grandfather by his arms, and I'm flung in front of them.
"Ah, welcome to the party, Vex!"
"You're filth, Toran." I rush him, but Nicodemus and another restrain me.
He laughs and grips my grandfather at the jaw. "Alight, Deia, tell me where the Holy-weapon is, or I'll have them tear your boy's head off."
"I already told you – there isn't one!"
I could hear the pain in my grandfather's voice. He's pale, with blackened eyelids. He was bitten, and the marks on his hand confirmed it. Toran grins at Nicodemus, who responds by shoving his claws in my neck.
"No, stop!" begs my grandfather.
"You stop – stop lying! Where is it?" Toran's eyes bulge.
"Go ahead, kill me. You think I'm scared of death?" I wasn't, but I knew it wasn't my time yet, nor my grandfather's.
My other restrainer laughs. "I like this boy's fire, he'd make an excellent pet for my daughters."
"You hear that Deia? Deverell's already planning the boy's future. If you wish it not to come to pass, give me what I want!" bawls Toran.
I need to get my grandfather away from these monsters, so I try something.
"I know where it is! Let him go and I'll take you to it."
"Ah, there we go. You raised such a good boy, Deia. Let's swap, boys."
Now's my chance. Nicodemus and Deverell push me towards Toran, while he tosses my grandfather to them. In the few seconds we were free, I would have to grab my grandfather and use firaga to rocket us over the ledge. But I'm too slow. All I manage to do is rip his beads and chain off his neck. Toran succeeds in reversing our positions.
"You're quite the sharp boy, Vex – sharper than your grandfather. Now, tell me where it is."
Shit. If there was one, I didn't know.
"Sure, just let my grandfather go and I'll take you to it."
He laughs. "Tell me, and you can both go."
"It's… Um…" I look around. What can I say? Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!
"Quite an interesting drug – Venothol. It's capable of neutralising the venom of a thousand vampires in one body, with only one side effect – agony. And the more venom in the bloodstream… Well, I'm sure you get it."
"Um… It's… In the temple."
"Where in the temple?" Toran's eyes are fixed to me.
"In… My grandfather's chambers."
Toran shakes his head. "It's too small to fit in someone's chambers. Where is it really?"
"I see you're having quite the hard time remembering. Perhaps we should help him boys."
Nicodemus bites into my grandfather's arm.
"Ugh!" he cries.
"No!" I'm helpless.
"Well? Still nothing? Deverell!"
Deverell joins Nicodemus in the feast. My grandfather doesn't even have the strength to vocalise his torment.
"No! Please, Toran! Just leave him alone," I beg.
"Vex, listen to me," tears run down my grandfather's cheek. "You need to get out of here."
"Not without you!"
"Then tell me where the weapon is!"
My grandfather's skin slowly fades into the whiteness of his hair. His eyes turn grey.
"When you were born, I was the happiest man in the world. It felt like I was holding my own son, when I first picked you up. From that day on, I knew I wanted to be a better man, making a better world for my grandson."
Damn it! I couldn't fight the tears. Why was he speaking to me like this was his final moments?
"Go, the Sun awaits. Don't forget the necklace, it's special. It was my mother's. Gift it to Thrayeth from me, as a blessing for your marriage."
"Shut up Gramps! It's in the temple! I swear!"
"I know you're lying, Vex. We can stand here all night torturing your grandfather or…"
"Farewell, my son. I'm so proud of the man you've become," my grandfather smiles.
Nicodemus and Deverell's jaws lock. They inefficaciously try to pull themselves out of him.
"What the hell are you idiots doing?" Toran snarls.
What the hell is my grandfather doing? Sob.
My grandfather ignores me as he mentally uses the nerves in his arms to force Nicodemus and Deverell to drink him dry. The men around us struggle to pull them off.
"You idiots! Stop drinking!"
"Wegh caarghn't!" they garbled.
My grandfather etiolates. He was a ghoul before me.
"That's enough!" Toran tosses me to the side and tackles Nicodemus and Deverell away from my grandfather. His limp body drops to the ground. His now opened eyes are colourless. I crawl to his body. A pins-and-needle-numbness creeps into me. I can't look away. My diaphragm is paralysed.
"You morons! You killed him!"
"We're sorry, Boss. We couldn't stop."
I didn't want to hear it, but when I did – my mind began to clear. Toran shoves my face closer to my grandfather's lifeless body. My tears fall onto his cheeks.
"Do you see what happens when you refuse me, boy? Do you want to end up like that? WHERE THE HELL IS IT?"
"I think he's traumatised," laughs Toran, with his men joining in the amusement.
I look straight at him; I want to see him burn. "FIRAJA!"
An enormous surge of fire bursts out of me, setting the bastards ablaze. They scream and squirm. I jump off the ledge, landing on some corpses. The back of my mind thanks the souls whose remnants had broken my fall, but my main focus is the necklace I held. 'The Sun awaits," he said. "The necklace is special," he said. I knew my grandfather! It was a message! I run to Town Square with everything I have left, everything my grandfather died for.
Toran and his men put themselves out.
"What the hell was that?" whines Nicodemus.
"I believe that was the level 4 fire spell - firaja," Deverell replies, as he watches his hand restoring its burnt flesh. "It seems the Queen's power has its limits."
"Shut it, you two. We have a boy to catch!" Toran takes flight.
Deverell and Nicodemus follow him.
The statue is only a few meters away. I'm almost there. I search the pendant as I run. I trigger something and the two pyramids, forming the diamond, split – revealing a quartet of combination wheels. I look up. The statue is right in front of me, but Toran pins me to the ground, forcing my mouth into dirt. Cough.
"I hope this little run of yours was to bring me to the weapon," he makes me face him.
"Of course, murderer. There it is," I gesture to Narasimha.
"Ha haa! It was the statue! Genius! I should've known. It's a golem, isn't it?"
"Now activate it, you pyromaniac!" chirps Nicodemus.
"No! We must corrupt it first!" orders Toran.
A glowing red vapour starts to ooze from his hands. He begins writing sigils in the air. I roll the digits on wheels of the necklace. 0902 – my birthdate.
Narasimha's eyes flash blue and then turn green. Gears rumble. His concrete shell starts to crack.
"That was quick, Boss," says Nicodemus, genuinely impressed.
"It wasn't me," says Toran, suspiciously. He looks at me. "You!" He winds up for a swing.
Narasimha beams an energy shield over me, thwarting Toran's attack.
"Summoner, what is your will?" asks Narasimha.
"Narasimha," I hold up the pendant. "The vampires have taken the city. We have to save the people."
The lion-headed giant roars with a fierce pierce that brings the vampires to their knees. He breaks through the rocky confines that hid his golden lustre. Toran smashes the energy shield and attempts to grab me, but he's flung into the distance, together with his men, by Narasimha's mighty backhand. The giant places his palm before me and I climb to his shoulder.
Narasimha thundered through the city, sparing no evil from the swing of his claws, or the blasts from his eyes. When we approached the helpless, he'd crush their assaulters, and allow them to climb on board. I pull out my phone and dial Thrayeth as we march.
"Thray, where are you?"
"I'm on board a carrier to Praes. Sahaki sent ships just like you said! He stayed behind for you and your grandfather. Please tell me you two are with him!"
I was silent. The words didn't want to come out, so I forced it to.
"He's dead, Thray. I'm headed for the clearing, we just passed the back gates."
"Oh, Vex… I'm so sorry."
"Did your mom make it out okay?"
"Yes, she's fine. She's with me. Vex… We'll get through this, I prom…"
A Vampirian soldier seizes me. We land in some bushes, tumbling to a stop. She pins me down.
"Hi handsome!" she licks her lips. "I'm thirsty for… Argh!"
She's knocked off me by a chunk of ice.
"I saw him first!" says a Vampirian woman.
"Forgive me, Princess." The soldier flies off.
The Vampirian princess turns to me. "Go on, get out of here."
"What?" Was this girl serious?
"If they see me helping you, we'll both be dead! Get!"
Narasimha clears the trees and bushes to find us. He scans the princess and slams his claws into the ground in front of her. He turns to me, gesturing to come aboard again. We continue our journey to the carriers. I turn back to somehow thank the princess, but she'd already disappeared.
A blue energy shield lit the way forward, spanning to the mountains on either side of us. It protected the people running through it, by preventing the vampires from proceeding. The shield was created by rows of meditating monks. The shield had four barriers, each created by a row. When a significant impact on a shield layer broke the monks' concentration, the whole row would get up, head to the back and create another layer from the inside. In short – the monks were being pushed back. We pass through the shield. I take glance of a man running with an injured woman. He makes it through, but the woman is unable to pass. She fearfully bangs against the barrier. The man seeks aid from the monks who aren't involved in the shield.
"Please, my wife – she can't get through."
They look at her.
"She's changing, there's nothing we can do."
"No, please!" The man tries to get to his wife, but he's taken to the ships.
"No! Don't leave me!" cries his wife.
"Vex! Get in here!" Sahaki draws my attention away from the heartfelt scene.
Narasimha puts me down. The rest of his passengers climb off and head to the ships.
"So it's just you then?" asks Sahaki with deep sorrow.
"I couldn't save him." I admit.
Sahaki bows his head. "Alright, that's everyone! Let's get out of here."
"Wait! There's a woman…" I look for her, but she's gone. "Never mind." I turn to Narasimha. "Meet us in Praes, don't let the vampires get to the ships!"
"Yes, my summoner."
Narasimha roars in his charge through the collapsing shields. He hurls the hoards into the pitch beyond. The monks board the last ship.
"C'mon, Vex. It's time!" yells Sahaki over the booming engine.
I walk backwards, watching Narasimha. As I'm about to turn, I catch sight of Toran. He signals and a group of Vampirian brutes attack Narasimha, slashing away chunks of his armour. The giant falls with an earthquaking thud.
"I want him subdued, not destroyed!" warns Toran.
I have no choice. "Narasimha!" I yell.
He turns to me.
He nods. His chest glows emerald, expanding rapidly until it explodes into an immense wave of energy. The soldiers are reduced to ash; the brutes are burning corpses. Where the hell was Toran? A brute's body begins to move. Toran emerges from it, slashing his way to the surface.
He turns to me and smiles. "Well played, Vex." He heads back into the darkness.
I make my way into the ship and it takes off.
I fall into an open seat. I'm so thirsty. I close my eyes, focusing on slowing down my heart rate. My mind begins to dim.
© Shainin Pillay, 2017
Thank for reading my first chapter of Daemoxium. If you would like to help me further the story, you can support me on /shainin where you can:
*view concept art for the story (also available on Instagram shaininpillay)
*pledge $1 a month for humble rewards
*leave me a small donation
*or simply like my work and share my page