Genesis of the Hunter: Book @
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by Joshua Martyr
Category: Dark Fantasy
Description: The world that cradles mankind has yet to be fully understood, and much of its archaic beginnings linger within our minds, the voices of myths from times past. Yet in these legends there are often glimmers of truths, truths that are dismissed as mere lore because of the unimaginable reality they might represent. This is such a story: the origin of a legend, one that hovers from our distant past-- the origin of the vampire. Thought provoking and brimming with action and suspense, this is the epic chronicle of a man changed in nature and body. Once a sentinel of a prosperous settlement, he is forced into a nocturnal existence, and instinctually compelled in ways that may cost him his very humanity. He discovers he has gained an unnatural longevity, and while the ages pass without truly leaving their mark, the modern world develops around him. His existence is eventually discovered by the elites of the West, an old organization whose siege even he shall be hard pressed to survive.
eBook Publisher: Eternal Press/Damnation Books LLC/Damnation Books, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: October 2010
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [379 KB]
Reading time: 255-357 min.
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Little light from the moon and stars reached the earth this night, for blackened clouds, heavy with rain, had drifted across the sky. Clothed in the robe of a monk, he gazed out from within the hood, his face quite shrouded by the recess of shadow within. He had left Colin and Ober in the distance some time ago and the feeling of leaving them behind had been a rather unsettling one, for it was not solely his friends whom he left behind, but all that they represented -- the cherished merriment, camaraderie, and love that had oft been what had made life worth living in times of sorrow and hardship. The life he had known before he was changed in body was yet so fresh in his mind -- so tangible. It made his new world of night seem as some horrid dream from which he could not wake; yet, somehow, sitting astride the great bay and riding over the rolling plains of Northumberland made him feel like the man he had been but a little while past.
He regarded the bay and the black mare, which, tethered to the bay's saddle by a rope lead, dutifully followed his snorting mount. He found himself strangely comforted by the two steeds -- comforted by their indiscriminate trust, affection, and even their very presence with him on his journey. He rode westward, mirroring the river, Tweed, as he made his way inland, just as he had done whilst journeying to the lair of the demon he had slain. He knew he could not stay in Berwick, nor reside in any place at length for that matter. Bronwyn's death was grim evidence of this fact, and he was unsure if he would ever relinquish the guilt he carried, as he bore it like a great weight over his shoulders. He reasoned that death had found Bronwyn solely as a result of his seeking her and that if he had but remained interred in the ground, she would breathe still. He had come to learn that his days of merriment, of enjoying the company of friends and loved ones, of even standing in the light of day, were at an end.
Indeed, were he not compelled to do what he understood as God's work, he might have ended his own life some time ago. Now, all he had, all he gave, was death -- death from which, he beseeched of himself, the innocent must be spared, and by which only the wicked should suffer, lest he risk what little was left of his soul. He feared death would eventually find those he held dear, those with whom he fraternized, and thus he wandered through the night, alone with his beasts beneath the dark firmament above.
Somewhere beneath this selfsame sky, the white demons stalked the haunts of men, for in days past he had chanced upon traces of more of their kind as he roamed. He had also found that to hunt these creatures, he might often find himself within these aforementioned haunts of men, and at present, his roguish, feral appearance was not conducive to any kind of inconspicuous mingling. He had found, however, that his look was such that if he remained aloof, composed, reserved, and discreetly mindful of how people observed him, he was, for the most part, passable as a man; and, as garbs often proclaim the man, he reasoned that Colin's suggestion of a change of attire might prove useful in this endeavor.
Berwick Castle grew larger as he approached, and when he had drawn near as he dared on horseback, he drew back his hood, dismounted, and led the horses into the natural alcove of a nearby thicket. This small island of shrubs and trees rose more than high enough from the grassy plain to conceal the horses, shrouding the animals' forms in deep, unfathomable shadow. The sentry tied the bay's reins to a slender tree and watched as it tossed its head somewhat nervously, evidently unsure about its dark, confined surroundings. He steadied the beast with a firm grip of its reins beneath the bit and stroked its neck and mane with his free hand. He spoke to it in a smooth, soothing voice.
"Calm yourself, friend, calm yourself. Be calm...shhhh...I shall return shortly."
The black mare that, being led, was less agitated, nuzzled the sentry as he rested his face upon one side of her neck, stroking her flank. He removed one of the large, empty sacks from the small load upon its back and slung it over his shoulder as he patted the mare's side a final time. The sack, like the others, was fastened with a thick drawstring, woven through a series of grommets near the mouth of the sack. This caused the mouth of the sack to tighten and close when the sack was hung from the drawstring whilst weighted with contents. He tied the drawstring into a noose, which he slung over one shoulder and under the opposite arm so that the sack draped off his back next to where the hood of his robe hung below his shoulders. Shortly thereafter, the sentry left the safety of the thicket, adorning the great hood of his priest's habit as he made his way up the steepening slope towards Berwick Castle.
In the days since his inception into the world of night, he had found himself drawing ever closer to castles, towns, and villages as he ranged; less afeared of being seen by others, and increasingly confident in his ability to move amidst them unseen.
It was not long before he reached the outer bailey, and slinking over it, he made his way to the castle. He dared not venture near the entranceway into the castle, for there he would surely be spotted. Instead, he gazed upwards at the nine towers, many of differing girth, structure, and height, which loomed above the main bulk of the castle, rising from curtain walls, encompassing the courtyard within. He observed them, deciding which would be best suited for entry. It would most certainly not be the slender Hog's Tower, for he had heard told that it was naught but a dungeon high above the castle. Eyeing the small, lone window near its crown, he intuited that the massive, lofty keep would serve his purposes.
He skulked towards the side of the castle from which he could access the keep most readily. The arched window was set with glass -- a rarity indeed; its presence indicating wealth, perhaps even betraying the abode of the town lord himself, for no other window he observed from his position bore the sheen of glass. The crown of the keep was mounted by four, squat, crenellated towers, and upon each, a single guard was stationed.
Rain began to spit from above and it was not long before it fell in torrents: a symphony of spattering droplets, almost obscuring the castle that rose before him. Moving silently and patiently, he eluded the eyes of the stationed guards, for, as was his habit, he clung to the darkest shadows wherever he could, and thusly, reached the castle itself. When he was beneath the keep, he placed his pale, bare hands and feet against the mortared stones of the castle and began to climb. The castle stones were slick with rain, yet he clung to the glistening rock with ease. The black claws upon his hands and feet hooked and gripped against the stones, to which, equal to the task, his fingers and palms held fast.
Sweeping under his hood, rain whipped against his face as he ascended, and his yellow eyes blinked and squinted through the deluge. He moved silently and steadily, the faint scratching of his clawed fingers and toes drowned by the incessant tumult of the rain. Now and again the hilt and pommel of his sword would scrape against the stone from beneath his robe, and he paused for a moment to shift his belt and scabbard before continuing his ascension. Slowly, cautiously, his eyes searching the surrounding towers for vigilant guards, he pulled himself onto the castle wall. Moving in a deep crouch, he stalked towards the darkest side of the keep, and here, hidden in the blackest of shadows, he scaled the stone structure.
The keep was a large, rectangular column, nearly as tall again as the curtain walls of the castle that enclosed the courtyard, which was now clearly visible from where he clung to the keep. He looked down at the river Tweed and saw the White Wall, the great wall that ran from the port at the Tweed's bank, up the steep motte and adjoined to the castle. Alongside this wall, ran a set of stairs, the Breakneck Stairs he had heard them called. From above, muffled by the wind and rain, he heard the voices of the guards atop the four corner towers of the keep. They murmured amongst one another intermittently as they endured the weather above.
Still a little distance from the crown of keep, he reached the window -- the sole window upon this face of the keep above where it rose from the castle wall. He reached upwards and took hold of the windowsill, first with one hand, then the other. Slowly, he pulled his head up towards the window to peer into the room beyond. He kept much of his face hidden below the sill and behind one side of the frame, so that he stared out through a single eye from the bottom corner of the window. He was dismayed to find an ornate iron grating built into the masonry within the aperture. The grating was set in the stone frame a hand's breadth from the glass, effectively barring the window. He slipped the fingers of his right hand through the swirling, almost floral patterns of iron, and clasped the grating.
He pulled then pushed against the grating, but it was solidly fixed into the masonry. Even if he were able to shake it loose and finally wrench it from the window with brute force, it would cause far too much noise for too long, and most assuredly alert the four guards above to his presence. He looked past the grating and stared into the room. It was dark, but his keen eyes pierced the shadows. The room was relatively large, its occupants elsewhere. Against the wall to his right was the head of a large bed, neatly covered with patterned sheets, and held above the wooden floor by a lavish, wooden bed frame. Just beyond the window was a writing desk and chair, and against the far wall, off to the right, was an enormous wardrobe. Other furnishings and ornamentations filled the room, but what caught the sentry's eye was the large window directly ahead of him, across the room on the far wall.
The window was considerably larger than the one through which he now peered, and it was barred neither by grating or by glass. Most fortuitously, its hinged, wooden shutters had been left wide open to allow fresh air into the room. He noted that he could not see open sky, or the opposite wing of the castle through the open window. Strangely enough, all he saw beyond the opening was a stone wall, as though the window opened into some kind of dark hollow or shaft in the center of the keep. He began to contemplate what might lie beyond the open window and determined that regardless of what it was, he must find a way into it to access the window and gain entry to the room. If the shaft were indeed what he suspected, then he would have to enter it from the very roof of the keep.
He ascended the remaining distance to the top of the keep with cat-like whid, and peeked out over the roof from where the stone floor of the roof met the base of one of the squat, corner towers. Rain swept over the keep on the back of a strong wind, which howled softly as it roiled about the four towers. His robe barely thrashed in the wind, so heavy was it with rain. The guards dipped their heads and squinted their eyes, rain rapping against their conical helms and dribbling down the metal nose guards, which jutted down from the brow of each helm. Upon occasion, a guard would look about ineffectually, though much of their time was spent with their chins tucked and shoulders hunched, attempting to keep their bodies warm under their rain soaked cloaks, tunics and undergarments. They strained to peer out over the surrounding land through the deluge.
The sentry did not feel their chill. He hauled himself onto the top of the keep and pressed his back against the small tower beside him. The towers were not even so high as Colin's smithy, yet the darkness, pooling shadows, and masking rain, hid the sentry from the guards' eyes. Just as he had thought, there was a large, squarish opening in the stone floor near the center of the keep. Its diameter was nearly twice his own length and its edges were somewhat beveled, though by design or wear he was not sure.
It was a lightwell, a lengthy shaft that descended into the very bowels of the castle, bringing light and fresh air into areas that might otherwise be altogether devoid of both. It was this lightwell that the unbolted window opened into, and in descending into it he could gain entry into the room. He turned his attention to the tower at his back, craning his neck to stare upwards at its crenellated top. From its base, he could not see the guard stationed above, and he was leery of being spotted. Should the guard be facing him as he made his move towards the lightwell, he would not reach the guard before he alerted the others.