Talon: The Spider’s Web Prologue

Talon: The Spider’s Web

by Jay Michael Wright II

Prologue

The Lost Colony of Roanoke

Hell is empty. All the devils are here.”

–William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”

January 21, 1590

Croatoan Island (now known as Hatteras Island)

Gazing in horror at the charred corpse of my mother, I tried to cry, but there were no more tears in me left to give. The day’s snowfall had left a mild dusting of pristine white frost to contrast the black scorched flesh beneath which had once been my sweet, loving mother, Elizabeth Watson. How could God allow such a thing to happen? I was living in a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from, no matter how hard I tried. Why was I being tormented like this? Why wouldn’t God just let me die already?

Tied to a tree, just to the left of me, was my younger sister, Lizzie. Her half-frozen strawberry blonde curls covered her face, which by now had started turning a pale shade of blue. I’m not sure when she died. I had been drifting in and out of consciousness for hours. The bitterly cold winter wind had been slicing through me all night, my fingers and toes had grown numb, and I could barely hold my head upright. I figured it wouldn’t be much longer before I’d be joining my family in the eternal darkness of death. Heaven or Hell, either place would be a welcomed change compared to this frozen forest in the middle of nowhere. Coming to the “New World” had sounded so exciting. I could have never imagined that this is how it would end. My heart shattered, breaking into a million tiny shards of glass, as I waited on the inevitable.

The sun was starting to set. The sky was turning from a light orange to deeper shades of blue and eventually to that bitter black which would welcome me home. I would surely freeze to death by morning, if the wolves didn’t come to make a meal of me first. I’m not sure which frightened me more, but I awaited both of them anxiously. I just wanted it over. I couldn’t stand another moment of this torment. Please end it! Just let me fade to the nothingness which I’ve become! I beg you! Take me from this accursed world!

Darkness fell upon the woods and the howling in the distance sent chills running up and down my spine. I knew it was futile, but I tried one last time to free myself from the ropes that bound me, but alas, my strength had forsaken me long ago. There would be no escape. There would be no rescue and no revenge for the murder of my family. I prepared to meet death face to face, welcoming him like an old friend. After all, I had nothing left to live for.

I heard a rustling in the brush and a low growl that slowly crescendoed to what seemed like a roar. The wolves, they had finally come for me. I couldn’t imagine a more horrible fate, but if this is how it was going to end, so fucking be it.

Trying to shout, my voice was not much more than a hoarse whisper. “Come on, then! Finish it!” Thrashing wildly against my bindings, I tried to scream, “Finish it!”

Suddenly, the growling turned into a whimper, as I heard the beasts scurry away. What could have happened? Why hadn’t they come for me? And that’s when I saw… her.

She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. At first I thought she was an Angel, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Batting my eyes, I tried to focus on the crimson haired maiden approaching me from across the field. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if she was real or not.

She had the reddest hair I had ever seen. I was like wavy fire that flowed all the say down to her succulent hips. Her eyes were the color of sparkling emeralds and, although it was agonizingly painful to hold my head up, I could not take my eyes off of her. She seemed to be gliding towards me, moving as gracefully as a shadow across the ground. Unlike my fellow colonists, she wore an elaborate dress of satin and lace, something worthy of a noblewoman to wear, and her skin was as pale as the snow which had fallen upon the ground.

Standing directly in front of me, she gazed at me curiously, first from the left, and then from the right. Reaching out, she moved the frost-covered hair from my face and caressed my cheek with the back of her ice-cold hand. “You poor thing.” she whispered, her voice sounding like a hundred Angels speaking in perfect harmony, like sweet honey to my ear. “How could they do this to you?”

“Have… have you come to take me home?” I gasped, still mesmerized by her eyes.

She seemed quite amused by this notion. She circled behind the tree I was strapped to, giggling with every step. Instantly, she seemed to be right beside me, whispering into my ear. “My poor, poor Nicholas. You seem to have me confused with someone else.”

I felt myself starting to fade. My head was starting to spin and the world was beginning to fade to black. I forced out the words, “How do you know my name?”

Oh, I know more than your name! I know how you crossed the ocean to settle this colony, how the supply ships left and never came back, how the blood plague spread through the colony, how that fat preacher Jonah Hale blamed your mother for it, had her burned alive for being a witch, and left you and your sister here tied to these trees to die.

I was mystified. How did she know this? How long had she been watching me? I wanted to ask her, but my energy was all but gone. I could no longer hold my head up.

Placing a finger beneath my chin, she lifted me up until our eyes once again met. She swayed hypnotically as she continued whispering so sweetly to me. “And it’s not just what I know about you, it’s what I feel from you! Even before you lingered here so close to death, you radiated emotions like no mortal I had ever seen. I can feel the tempest stirring inside of you even now: the sorrow, the rage, the grief that chokes your very soul, and the fire for revenge that burns in your belly. You are the most fascinating mortal I have ever seen, and I am not yet willing to let you pass into that great beyond. Pledge to me your heart and leave whatever humanity you have left here to die with your family, and I will grant you that revenge that you so desperately crave. Will you do it? Will you be my perfect little killing machine? Will you love me above all others? Do you pledge your body and soul to me for all of time? Do this, and nothing shall be outside your grasp, not now, nor ever.”

She slowly stepped away, smiling and giggling in an almost mad fashion. I tried to answer her but my throat was dry and my body weak. “I… I…”

She began to turn away and mustering the very last of my strength I shouted, “I agree!”

Turning back to face me, she smiled and for the first time I could see her razor-sharp fangs. “I thought you might. Now here: drink this, my pet. You need your strength.

Sinking her fangs into her own wrist, I saw the blood begin to pour. She held her wrist to my mouth and at first I resisted, but as those first few crimson drops fell upon my lips, I eagerly accepted her offering. I gnawed at her milky, white flesh as I consumed every drop she would give me. I could feel my strength returning and suddenly reality as I knew it changed.

Taking her wrist back, she grinned. “Tsk, tsk, that’s enough for now, my child.

Looking around, I saw the world as I had never seen it. As the wind blew, I noticed every leaf that shuddered. Every snow flake falling from the sky I could make out with crystal clarity. The woods seemed alive with sounds. Every branch that snapped, every time the snow crunched from an animal’s step, every sound seemed magnified a hundred thousand times.

Smiling wickedly, my female savior sighed, “You’ll get used to that with time. The world will never be the same to you again. You have escaped your mortal shell. You are now a child of Lilith, an immortal, a walking blasphemy, a spit into the very face of God himself. How do you feel, my pet?

To my astonishment, my voice had fully returned. “I… I feel fine, good even, like I could conquer the world.”

Leaning in close, she placed a soft kiss upon my chapped lips. For her skin to be so cold, her kiss set me on fire. She nibbled on my earlobe, whispering, “And you shall conquer the world, my Progeny. You shall.”

Standing upright, she took a step back. “Now free yourself,” she said, motioning for me to follow her.

Mustering all my strength, I pulled against the ropes that bound me. They snapped as if I had been held by strings. I ended up face down in the snow, much to the amusement of my mysterious benefactor. She snickered endlessly while I lay there on the cold hard ground.

Regaining my feet and dusting myself off, I asked her, “Who are you? What have you done to me?”

Offering her hand, she said, “I am Tessa Darkheart, and I have made you a god amongst mortal men.

Taking her hand, I bowed and placed a kiss upon it, still unsure of what she meant. “I thank you, my lady.”

Again, she giggled. “How proper! It thrills me to no end to know I chose a mortal with such good manners to be my pet! Now come, child! We have a lesson to teach the misguided colonists of dear old Roanoke.

Looking over at my mother and sister, I was once again filled with a great sadness. “Please forgive me, Tessa, but there is something I must do first.”

Sighing before she spoke, I could hear the frustration in her voice. “If you absolutely must! But bury them quickly and be done with it! You are no longer mortal and you must let go of your mortal ways! Now hurry, and let this be the last piece of sentiment you ever show the world!

Nodding silently, I agreed to her demands and got to the task at hand.

Following Tessa through the woods was hardly an easy task. As she effortlessly glided along, avoiding every branch and piece of shrubbery, I was continuously tripping, getting whacked in the face with tree limbs, or falling into snowbanks that made me all but disappear. If my new immortality had granted me any grace, I was most certainly not displaying it as I followed my Sire back towards the Roanoke Colony.

Stopping for a moment, Tessa turned to me with her twisted grin upon her face. “I can feel the questions burning inside of you. You may ask me whatever you wish.

She was right. There were a million questions swirling around in my brain, but of all the things I was pondering, “What are we?” was the best I could come up with.

Giggling in the most hypnotic way, she replied, “We are Vampires, my child—children of the night.”

“Vampires?” I gasped. “Like the old legends? Vampires aren’t real!”

Dropping her fangs, Tessa lunged at me, stopping just short of my face. “Don’t I look real?” She then took my hands and placed them on her hips and gradually slid them all the way up to her breasts. Smiling seductively, she said, “Don’t I feel real?” Placing her lips upon mine, she slid her tongue inside of my mouth, darting it around in a frenzy. When she was done, she asked, “Don’t I taste real?

Properly blushing, I smiled. “You must certainly do, but I don’t understand. I thought Vampires were just myths meant to scare children into staying inside at night.”

To this, Tessa cackled. “And that’s just what you’re meant to believe! Our kind has hidden in the shadows so long that people no longer think we’re real. It allows us all the freedom in the world to move about, drink, and kill as we see fit.

We carried on slowly, continuing our conversation as we went. “And what of the other stories? About crosses and stakes through the heart?”

Both misconceptions, my child. A cross is simply a cross and, while perhaps a bit painful, a stake through the heart will no more kill you than a bee sting.

“And what of sunlight?” I asked. “Will I burst into flames if I walk out into the daylight?”

Turning her head, Tessa rolled her eyes at me. “While there is some truth to sunlight, you won’t burst into flames, child. Sunlight weakens us and makes us sickly. While sunlight itself will not destroy you, in the sunlight you are the most vulnerable. Never rush into a fight during the day time. There are only three ways which you can now die: decapitation, being completely drained of your blood, or having enough of your blood drained that you are unable to heal yourself of your injuries.

“The blood heals me?”

Oh yes! It is perhaps the greatest gift of all! It will heal your wounds right before your eyes, regenerate lost body parts, if given time, and will protect you from all sickness and aging for as long as you shall live. If you are lucky enough to live another thousand years, you will never age a day, all thanks to the blood which I have given you. The blood of Lilith now flows through your veins.”

Ducking beneath a tree limb, I hurried to keep up. “That’s the second time you’ve mentioned Lilith. Who is she?”

Placing her hands on her hips, Tessa shook her head at me. “You silly mortals! You spend so much time studying that Bible of yours and you don’t even know the truth of creation! Lilith was Adam’s first companion.

“There’s no Lilith in Genesis, at least I don’t remember one.” I said in a disbelieving tone.

Oh there’s more to existence than is found in that Bible of yours, child. Now come! We can discuss this as we travel. We have to hurry. I have my first gift for you.

Carrying on towards the outskirts of the Roanoke Colony, she continued, “Lilith was the first woman. She was strong and fierce, refusing to be treated as anything less than Adam’s equal. For her supposed insolence, she was cast from the Garden of Eden, where she came upon the Morning Star and his Angels.

So enchanted by her voice, I stumbled over a log buried in the snow. As I regained my feet, I asked, “You mean the Devil?”

I heard Tessa snickering at me. “The Devil, Lucifer, the Morning Star, whatever you want to call Him, He is one and the same. Where God had been merciless, Lucifer took pity upon Lilith. Admiring her spirit so, He took her as His lover. She drank of His blood, the holiest of bloods, and became the first of our kind. Lilith is our mother and Lucifer, the Divine Fallen One, He is our father. They gave us life eternal and told our kind to go forth and to use the mortals any way which we saw fit. Mortals are beneath us. They are cattle. They are a parasite sucking the life from the planet and we, my sweet dark child, we are the cure for their disease. But enough of this talk! It’s time for your gift! Look between the giant oaks at the field down below. Tell me, what do you see?

At first, I saw nothing. I had yet to learn how to use my new Vampiric eyes. “It is too dark. I can’t see a thing.”

Tessa purred as she responded, “Just concentrate, my pet, and all things hidden shall be revealed to you. Relax your new Vampire eyes and look again.

Relaxing my eyes, I tried again. Slowly, as if the night had lifted, I could see two young men in the field gathering firewood. “I can see them!” I said excitedly.

Circling me, playing with my hair, and caressing my cheek, she whispered, “Now look closer. Who is it that you see?”

Their faces slowly came into focus and my fists clenched tightly in response. “It is Thomas Wilson and Robert Smith.”

Pressing her chest against my back, Tessa playfully placed her head upon my shoulder. “Why, isn’t Thomas your friend? The same friend that helped tie you to that tree and left you to die?”

The gentle caress of her fingertips across my chest was intoxicating. It took me more than a moment to answer her as I relished in every stroke of her hand. “He is.” A strange excitement suddenly came over me and for the first time my fangs descended into place. Turning to her, I asked, “May I kill him?! Is that my gift?!”

Placing a kiss gently upon my lips, Tessa said, “It pleases me to see you so eager, but no. Not yet. Thomas will be our messenger. He will tell Jonah Hale and the rest of the colony of your return, that you have come back from the grave for your revenge.”

“But I want to kill him now!”

Smiling pleasantly, Tessa pulled my head to her bosom and stroked my hair. “I know you do, sweet boy, but we shall save him for near the last. Fear is a powerful tool, my pet, and Thomas shall be our instrument to spread that fear into the very hearts of those who betrayed you.”

“And what of Robert?” I asked.

Pulling back, Tessa brushed the hair from my face. “Robert I give to you as your first kill. Now come. You know what to do. You deliver our message to Thomas. I’ll make sure little Robert doesn’t get away.”

The excitement in me grew to a fever pitch. I ran as I had never run before. Out of the woods and across the field, I came stampeding with my eyes locked on my former friend.

“Oh Thomas….” I shouted almost playfully.

Looking up, Thomas must have recognized my voice because appeared paralyzed with fear. I heard him mutter, “That can’t be.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Robert flung to the ground. Firewood went flying in all directions, rolling across the snow until they came to rest beside the oak tree we had used to climb when we were friends. I saw Tessa place her boot upon Robert’s throat and heard her say in the sweetest of voices, “Won’t you stay for the party, dear boy?” She laughed in the most horrifying of ways and I couldn’t help but smile at young Robert’s plight.

By now, Thomas had started to run but it was too late for that. Tackling him to the ground, I was on top of him in no time. “What’s the matter, Thomas? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

Screaming out, he tried to fight me off of him but it was no use. I was amazed at how easy it was to keep him pinned to the ground. When we were friends we wrestled all the time, usually with him getting the better of me, but not tonight. Tonight, I was the one in control.

“You’re dead!” he kept screaming over and over as the tears welled up in his eyes and the piss filled up his pants.

Opening my mouth wide to let him see my fangs, I hissed, “Do I look dead to you?”

I smiled joyfully as Thomas recoiled in horror. “Mercy, Nicholas! Show me mercy!” he shouted as he began sobbing uncontrollably. To be honest, I thought of my dead sister and mother and felt no pity for him whatsoever.

“And how much mercy did you show my mother when you helped fling her into the fire? How much mercy did you show Lizzie when you left her tied to a tree to freeze to death? You don’t deserve to live, you spineless rat!”

Raising my hand to strike him, I heard Tessa speak out. “Now, now, my lovely, remember! He’s the messenger! There will be time for fun and games later!”

Retracting my fangs, I pulled Thomas to his feet. “You go tell Jonah Hale and his church of hypocrites that the Devil has come to Roanoke, and he’s not leaving until he drags every single last one of you back to Hell with him! Now go! Go before I change my mind about letting you live!”

I had never seen Thomas run faster. He was tripping over his own feet as he headed down the path back to the colony. I turned to Tessa, who was smiling in blissful approval.

Clapping her hands joyfully, she said, “Oh that was just perfect, my pet! I just knew you were the right one from the moment I first laid eyes on you!”

Walking through the snow towards her, I asked, “And now?”

Smiling wickedly, with only one hand she picked Robert up from the ground and to his feet. “And now we get to have our fun!”

Trembling from either the cold or fear, Robert was a stuttering mess. “Ar-Ar- Aren’t you going to let me go? I’ll tell Jonah what you said! I p-p- promise!”

Circling Robert like a vulture eyeballing a meal, Tessa whispered into Robert’s ear, “We already have a messenger. There’s no need for two.” Turning her gaze to me, Tessa beckoned. “Nicholas, he’s all yours!”

Pouncing like a wild animal, I took Robert to the ground. At first I thought I was punching him, but I realized my nails had become razor sharp talons and I was instead ripping into his flesh. The sound of his screams and the smell of his blood only fueled my frenzy. Popping my fangs, I plunged them into his neck. His blood wasn’t as sweet as Tessa’s blood, but it was sweet enough. It was like a fine wine aged almost to perfection.

Draining him to his lost drop, I sat back. Looking at his lifeless corpse, I still felt the rage burning inside of me. For some reason, why I can’t honestly say, I grabbed his head and twisted until I heard a snap and then I twisted some more. By time I was done, his head was facing backwards.

Jumping up and down and clapping excitedly, Tessa said, “Marvelous! Simply marvelous, my child! You’ve made me so proud!”

Kneeling down, she passionately kissed my blood drenched mouth, taking the time to use her tongue to lick me clean. Standing back up, she offered her hand to me. “Come, Nicholas. The sun is soon to rise and we have plans to make. Will you follow me?”

“I will follow you, even into the Gates of Hell if need be.”

Giggling madly, Tessa said, “Perfect! Absolutely perfect!”

Pacing back and forth, my patience was growing thin. “It’s been two days! Why don’t we just go down there and kill the lot of them already?!”

Tessa seemed to be paying me no attention. She was crouched down, almost perfectly still, playing with one of the many rats that shared the cave which we had taken shelter in. This vermin in question had a broken leg and was struggling to escape but every time it made progress, Tessa would grab it by the tail and drag it back in front of her.

“Did you hear me?!” I asked in a very frustrated tone.

Glancing over her shoulder, Tessa smirked, “I heard you, but you must understand: there is a method to our madness. Fear is like a burning ember. Given time and nourishment that ember can turn into a blazing inferno. To fear is to suffer with your every breath, and causing suffering is in our very nature. It is why we exist. There is nothing sweeter to our kind than to cause suffering in these accursed mortals.”

Picking up the injured rat, Tessa cradled the creature in her hands and stood up. “Take this poor creature here. He knows he’s going to die and the fear of it is driving him mad. See how he struggles, how he flails about in utter desperation? The fear of death is worse than the death itself. Death is an end to suffering. Once we are no longer amused by their plight…” With a flick of the wrist, Tessa snapped the rat’s neck and tossed it callously to the ground. “…we put them out of their misery.”

I caught myself unexpectedly smiling. “Has the time come?”

Tessa shook her head. “Not yet, my pet. The ember we sparked has yet to set their souls ablaze, but the time has come for us to fan the flames.”

My eagerness knew no limits. I would have done anything she asked of me. I was blinded by both my rage and her beauty. “What do you have in mind, my lady?”

Circling me slowly, Tessa seemed to be pondering the question. With a snap of her fingers her face lit up like the sun. “I have it! Virginia Dare’s mother!”

“Eleanor White?”

Yes! Isn’t she the one who testified to seeing your mother dancing naked with the Devil at that mockery of a trial they held for your mother?”

The rage built up in me and my fangs dropped as a result. “Indeed, she was.”

And this was the thanks your mother got for providing Eleanor medicine for poor little Virginia! ‘Twas a shame the plague claimed the child, but it’s no excuse for the lies Eleanor told that fateful night. Grieving mother or not, Eleanor might as well have killed your mother and sister herself with those bastard lies that she told! Prepare yourself, my child! We’re going into Roanoke to pay dear old Eleanor a house-call.”

Creeping through the shadows, Tessa and I made our way to the Roanoke Colony. Stopping just on the outskirts, we saw two men guarding an entrance. Tessa whispered, “Looks like Thomas delivered our message for us.”

Looking about, I saw no other way in from where we were positioned. “Do we go around? Find another way?”

Pondering the question for a moment, Tessa responded, “Perhaps not. How many colonists are left now?”

I counted in my mind. “Between the harsh winter and the plague, there’s maybe thirty, thirty-five left.”

Smiling wickedly, Tessa turned to me, “Then they are short handed. Watch, my boy, I’m about to teach you the oldest trick in the game. Just be ready to move. You’ll know when. Now slash at my throat.”

“What?!” I was completely confused. Why would she ask that of me?

You heard me. Slash at my throat with your claws. Nothing too serious, though. Give me just enough of a nick to be bleeding.”

Still unsure of her plan, I took my hand and clawed at her neck. Quickly, the sweet crimson fluid began to flow and I saw Tessa shivering in pleasure. She moaned, “Mmmm, that sweet, sweet pain. I’ll have to properly thank you for it later. Now watch.”

Stepping out into plain sight, Tessa began staggering and in a voice I’d never heard her use she began calling out, “Help me! There’s something in the woods! Help me!

As soon as the guards saw her, they came running. As they reached her, Tessa feinted into one of their arms. It took all I had not to burst out laughing. It was quite the performance.

The guard holding her said to the other “We should call for help.”

That’s when the second guard realized something was amiss. “Wait, didn’t Thomas say Nicholas had a red-headed woman with him?”

In unison the guards looked down at Tessa. She suddenly changed from unconscious victim to fully awake ravenous monster. I saw her give the guard holding her a wink, before saying, “You got me.

In a move so fast it only appeared to me as a blur, Tessa had the man impaled. Her wrist and hand, now fully covered in blood, were sticking out through the man’s back. He tried to scream but Tessa had her other hand placed over his mouth. She gave a backwards glance and I knew that was my cue to act.

Pouncing from the shadows I was on top of the second guard before he could take a step or raise his blade. With my hand over his mouth, I had him pinned to the ground and my fangs stuck in deep. Within moments his convulsions ended and he was dead.

Tossing the other guard to the ground in the same careless fashion in which she had discarded the rat from the cave, Tessa smiled, “Well done, my pet. Now, on to Eleanor White’s house.”

Taking out two more guards along the way, we soon were outside Eleanor White’s cabin. “Shall we burst in?” I asked.

Tessa seemed disappointed. “You must learn a flare for the dramatic, my boy. Let’s have fun with this. Now do as I say...”

Waiting by the boarded up window I heard Tessa knock on the door. I heard footsteps shuffling inside and the sound of concerned voices. When Ananias Dare said, “Who’s there,” I burst through the window, sending splinters of wood flying across the room. Simultaneously, Tessa kicked in the door, knocking poor Ananias to the ground.

Kneeling down by Ananias, Tessa said, “Hello, love. We’re going to have some fun you and I!

Crouched in the corner, trembling with fear, was Eleanor White. I walked up to her slowly. I wanted to enjoy each and every moment of her horror. “Good evening, Eleanor. Mind if I make myself at home?” I pulled up a chair and propped my feet up on the pile of firewood Eleanor had decided to take sanctuary beside. “So, where shall we begin?”

Eleanor held up a trembling finger and pointed at me. “You—You’re dead!”

“Yes, I seem to get a lot of that these days.” In the background, I could hear Tessa having her way with Ananias. From his moans, I’d guess she was taking her time carving him up before the feast. This may be a horrible thing to admit, but at the time, I was enjoying every second of it.

Suddenly, Eleanor started scrambling across the floor and towards the door. How pitiful, I thought. Standing up, I grabbed her by the ankle and flung her head first into the woodpile.

Looking at me with a grimace, Tessa sounded almost disappointed in me. “Nicholas, be gentle with her. She’s just a delicate little thing.” She then smiled wickedly. “You don’t want to kill her too soon, now do you? What fun would that be?

While Ananias lay there bleeding out and Eleanor White lay half unconscious, I turned my head to the side and smiled. “You’re so right, m’love. Thank you for reminding me.”

Giggling as she carved into Ananias’ chest, she responded, “That’s what I’m here for. Now carry on. I’m almost done with mine.” Diving into his neck Tessa buried her fangs. She drank just enough to get a taste and then used her nails to slash Ananias’ throat. I had never heard a man drown in his own blood before. The gurgling sound mixed between his gasps for air was all very new and extremely exciting to me.

Turning my attention back to Eleanor, I knelt down. She was still semi-conscious, so I gave her a few playful slaps on the face. I called out to her cheerfully. “Eleanor! Oh Eleanor… wake up, deary! Time to play!”

Coming to her senses, Eleanor leaned forward and spit in my face. “You’re a demon!”

I heard Tessa giggling. “She has you there, Nicholas.”

Adding one more insult, Eleanor screamed, “And you’re sister was a harlot!”

I felt a fire in my belly that burns me until this very day when I think about it. How dare she say such a thing! I lost all track of my senses. The rage consumed me like an inferno that could never be extinguished. Picking Eleanor White up by the throat, I slammed her against the cabin wall. “Don’t you ever say a bad word about my sister again, you cunt!”

Calmly leaning over my shoulder, I heard Tessa whisper to Eleanor, “You’ve gone and done it now, deary. You’ve made him mad.

Struggling against my grasp, I tightened my grip on Eleanor’s throat. I squeezed until the wench began turning blue. Only Tessa’s tapping on my shoulder broke me from the focus of snapping Eleanor’s neck.

Not like that, my pet. Let’s have some real fun. Look what I found from when they boarded up the windows!” Tessa held up a hammer and handful of nails. “Since this colony is so religious, let’s give her a death worthy of a religious zealot!

Placing her hand over Eleanor’s mouth first, Tessa gave me a smile and then a lick up the side of my neck. She then forced Eleanor’s arm out to her side. “Take the nails, Nicholas. Let’s crucify her to the wall!

I was more than eager to comply. With my new Vampire strength it only took one swipe of the hammer to drive a nail straight through Eleanor’s wrist and into the wall. Her muffled screams only fueled my desire to continue. Taking another nail, I hammered Eleanor’s other wrist to the wall while she jerked about in agony and the blood poured down to the cabin floor.

Nibbling at my ear, Tessa whispered, “Finish her. Lift up her dress and drink from her thigh. There’s an artery there that will gush her life out upon the floor like a river of blood. Drink, my boy, drink to your heart’s content! Make her pay for what she did to you and your family!

With tears streaming down her face, Eleanor begged me, “No. Please don’t.”

Before I could even answer, Tessa wagged her finger in Eleanor’s face. “You shall not bare false witness, Eleanor.” Turning to me, Tessa said in a domineering voice, “Do it… do it now! Make this bitch pay for her lies!

Lifting up Eleanor’s skirt, I plunged my fangs into her thigh. Just as Tessa said, the blood flowed freely. I drank until there was nothing left in her. I looked up at her pale lifeless expression and grinned from ear to ear.

Beautiful, my child!” Tessa exclaimed. “Now help me with Ananias. If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right. Hold him while I tie this rope.

I did as she asked and within moments Tessa had tied a perfect hangman’s noose. Throwing it up and over the cross beam, she tied it off. “Now we simply wrap this around his neck and hoist him up.

Soon Ananias was dangling in the middle of the room with his wife crucified against the wall. Circling the room, Tessa smiled, admiring our work. She looked at Ananias and said, “And lo, when they found Judas he had hung himself. When he fell unto the ground he was split open and his bowels spilled upon the ground.” With that said, in one quick motion she sliced Ananias’ belly open, sending his stomach and entrails pouring out upon the floor.

Leaning close, Tessa whispered into my ear, “If Jonah Hale is such a man of God, he’ll certainly enjoy this little charade when he discovers it. Now come, my pet. While that wench’s blood still flows through you, I want to feel you inside of me. Let’s return home.

Over the next month, Tessa and I took our sweet time, picking off the colonists at our leisure. One by one, and sometimes in pairs, they all fell victim to my rage and Tessa’s thirst. Each of their lifeless faces are burned into my memory to this very day. They haunt the dark recesses of my mind like phantoms forever linked to my soul. I was getting my revenge, but at the time I had no clue how terrible of a price I would pay for it through the centuries. In the midst of doing it though, sad to say, it was all just fun and games. I was the monster Tessa encouraged me to be, a monster who lived with no regrets and lived by no one’s rules—except hers.

Bathing in the moonlight, Tessa whispered sweetly to me, “The scene is set, the players are on the stage. The time has come for the final act. Are you ready, my love? Are you ready to finish it?

I nodded eagerly. “Tonight, they shall know suffering and misery beyond comprehension.”

Softly giggling, Tessa caressed my cheek, “Yes they will, my pet. Yes they will. Only three remain and we’ve saved the best for last. Jonah Hale—the false prophet that had your family murdered, his daughter Molly, and your betrayer and former best friend Thomas. Tonight we recreate the living Hell you endured and wipe the Roanoke Colony from existence.” Rubbing her hands slowly across her body, Tessa closed her eyes and moaned. “Vengeance, it’s such a sweet pill to swallow. Now come! We’ve the Devil’s work to do!

Walking casually through the fort’s entrance (there was no one left to stand guard), it finally started to set in just how much destruction we had accomplished. Many corpses were still laying where they had fallen. Bits and pieces of some were missing, most likely carried off by the wolves or other scavengers. I watched in delight as a raven plucked the eyeball from one corpse and flew away to enjoy its prize. The smell of blood and death saturated the air. Bodies littered the colony grounds like the discarded rubbish they truly were. At the time I thought it was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.

Stepping over a small pile of corpses, Tessa said playfully, “Now where oh where can our little play-toys be?

Not a single light burned in the colony. There was no smoke billowing from any of the chimneys. The colony, for all intents and purposes, was a ghost town. I whispered, “You don’t think they’ve run off do you?”

Giggling, Tessa rubbed my cheek and said, “And just where would they run? The savages outside these walls want the colonists dead nearly as bad as you do. No, they’re most definitely here. I can smell their fear dancing on the breeze.

Walking from building to building, Tessa seemed to be tracking a scent. Eventually, she turned to me smiling. Pointing at the cabin before us, she placed her right index finger over her mouth, signaling for me to be quiet. Pulling me close, she whispered, “They’re inside. It’s time, my child, time to claim your final vengeance. I shall go prepare the spot we’ve chosen. You… go and play to your heart’s content! You know what to do, now do it!

Before I could move, Tessa pulled me to her and was licking very slowly up the side of my neck. Nibbling on my earlobe, she whispered, “You have no clue how proud I am of you! You were exactly what I as looking for. I couldn’t have picked a better Progeny. Now go! Finish what we’ve started. Before the sun rises, all who betrayed you will be burning in the fires of Hell and our Father shall make them pay an eternity for their sins against you!

I watched as Tessa walked towards the spot in the woods we had chosen to recreate my family’s demise. Looking over her shoulder, she blew me a kiss and I smiled. It was finally time to confront Jonah Hale. I couldn’t wait to make him suffer as I had suffered. He had taken everything from me, and now I was going to return the favor.

Kicking open the heavily fortified door, just as Tessa predicted, I found Jonah and the rest. The morbidly obese, self-professed preacher, with a worn leather-bound Bible in hand, stepped forward waving a cross in my general direction. “Back! Stay back, you demon!”

Giving Jonah a confused look, I said, “And just what are you planning to do with that?” Snatching the cross from his hand, Jonah looked on in disbelief as I snapped the wooden holy symbol and tossed it to the floor. Wagging my finger, I said, “Your superstitions won’t help you today, preacher man! Your God has forsaken you.”

Thomas, never known for his exercises in good judgment, came rushing at me toting a pitchfork. I almost laughed seeing him clumsily charge forward, nearly tripping before he even reached me. Stepping to the side, I avoided the pitchfork, and by simply extending my leg in his path, Thomas went tumbling to the ground, his head bouncing off the cabin floor rather violently. A tiny pool of blood formed beneath his skull and I was quite certain he wouldn’t be getting up anytime soon.

I could see Jonah’s daughter Molly hiding in the shadows of the back corner of the cabin with her knees pulled up to her chest. She was just sixteen years old, a half-year younger than me. I fancied her quite a bit when I was alive. Of all the young adults in Roanoke, we were the closest in age. I suppose it’s no wonder that we had been so drawn to each other. Before all the madness, I had once fancied the thought of marrying her, but that was long ago.

With one push I sent Jonah flying across the table and crashing to the floor. Perhaps I should have pounced on him, roughed him up, but instead I walked past him and headed straight to Molly. For a moment, I forgot what I was there to do.

Approaching her slowly, I said, “Hello, Molly.” in a casual tone, almost as if I had simply stopped by to share some afternoon tea with her.

Tears were streaming down her face. She refused to look up at me, instead she sat there trembling, staring off into the abyss. I dropped to one knee and brushed the brown hair from her face. “What’s the matter, Molly? Aren’t you happy to see that I’m alive?”

Slowly, she gazed up at me. When our eyes met, her crying worsened. She reached out to me and placed her hand upon my face. “They told me it was you,” she said, “but I didn’t want to believe them.”

“It’s really me, Molly. I’ve come back from the grave to avenge my family’s murder.”

In a melancholic tone, she said, “Oh, my sweet Nicholas, what have they done to you?”

“Ask your father. He knows what he did.”

From behind, I heard Jonah scream, “Get away from her, demon!”

I turned to see Jonah charging at me with a dagger in his right hand. Catching his wrist, I smiled as he realized he couldn’t overpower me. Laughing, I brought him to his knees as I crushed his wrist. I heard the bones snap and the dagger fell haplessly to the floor. “You had your chance to kill me, Jonah. I thought I’d stop by and see if I could do any better.”

Popping into the room, Tessa looked over the situation and smiled. “I see you’ve been having fun!” Casually strolling through the room, taking care to lift her dress as she stepped over Thomas’ body, Tessa approached. “So this is Jonah Hale? Not much to look at is he?

Giggling as she twirled around, Tessa knelt down beside Molly. “And this precious little thing must be Molly! My, my, what a sweet little thing she is! She looks absolutely delicious, Nicholas! Why didn’t you tell me? I can see why you were so sweet on her when you were alive!

Standing back up, Tessa snatched Jonah from my grasp. “But enough with the formalities! Let’s get this party started, shall we?

Throwing Molly over my shoulder and dragging Thomas by the ankle, I followed Tessa as she man-handled Jonah Hale out the door. In the distance, I saw a bonfire burning. It was exactly how I had envisioned it. Everything was falling into place.

Laying Molly beside the flames, I looked over at Tessa and smiled. Handing me some rope, she said, “This is what you’ve waited for. Prepare our ‘guests’.

Pleading for me to stop, Molly tried to escape my grasp, but her efforts were futile. Soon I had her tied to a tree just as my sister Lizzie had been. Next was Thomas, who was still in a daze from striking his head. I had him tied to a tree in a matter of moments, leaving only Jonah to deal with.

Down on his knees, I heard Jonah praying, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

Slapping Jonah on the back of his head, Tessa laughed wildly. “Oh it will take more than your little prayers to save you tonight. You know what you did to Nicholas, Jonah, and you will confess!

Molly screamed at Jonah, “Father! What did you do? What curse have you unleashed upon us?”

Snatching a handful of Jonah’s hair, I screamed in his face, “Yes, Jonah, what did you do?”

“I did the Lord’s work!” Jonah replied.

Snatching Jonah by his broken wrist I pulled him to his feet as he screamed in agony. “The Lord’s work?! Burning my mother alive and leaving my sister and me to die in the woods was ‘the Lord’s work’? What part of the Bible is that in, Jonah? Where, in that precious little book of yours, does it say to do that?”

From the look of horror on Molly’s face, I suddenly realized she hadn’t known. Looking away, Molly began crying again. “Father, how could you? You told me Nicholas and his family were being moved to quarantine them—to prevent the spread of the plague, but you… you killed them? You lied to me! How could you lie to me? I trusted you!”

“I only protected you from an ugly truth, Molly.”

Feeling the rage in me starting to boil over, I twisted Jonah’s wrist until the bones in his arm snapped. “And what truth was that, Jonah? The fact her father is a murderer?”

Cutting his eyes back and forth between Molly and me, Jonah said, “I protected you from knowing the truth about the Watsons. Elizabeth Watson was a witch and her children were demons! She brought the plague down upon us! I was cleansing our colony of the evil!”

Forcing Jonah down to his knees, I berated him. “Lies! My mother was no witch! And as for me,” popping my fangs, I saw the fear in Jonah’s eyes, “you made me what I’ve become! You took everything I loved from me! You murdered my family, and so help me God, I will see you burn for it!”

Hanging her head, Molly whimpered, “Father, tell me it isn’t true. Tell me you didn’t burn Elizabeth Watson alive for being a witch.” Jonah remained silent. “Father,” Molly screamed, “answer me! Did you kill his mother and leave Lizzie and Nicholas in the woods to die?”

Twisting Jonah’s mangled arm, I reveled in Jonah’s screams. I growled at him as I spoke, “Yes, Jonah, tell her! Tell her what you did! Tell her about that mock trial you held! Confess before I rip your God damned arm out of the socket and beat you with it!”

As Tessa giggled madly, Jonah was wailing in pain. He screamed out, “I did! I did! But I did it to save the colony! God was punishing us for letting such wickedness live amongst us!”

“There you go, telling your lies again!” Using the back of my hand, I furiously knocked Jonah to the ground. I was about to pounce him when I felt Tessa’s hand on my shoulder.

Whispering in my ear, Tessa said, “Tsk, tsk, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Suffering, like a fine wine, should be enjoyed slowly. The night is young and he hasn’t suffered near enough to be given the sweet release of death… at least not yet.

From behind me, I heard Molly screaming through her tears, “Oh God! How could you? They were our neighbors! They were like family! Oh God, I’m going to be sick! I knew you were capable of horrible things, father, but this? You’re a monster, father! A monster!”

Turning to Tessa, I knew I had a sad look upon my face. Tessa came up, wrapping her arms around me. As she stroked my hair, she said, “What is it, my little monster? What’s wrong? Isn’t this what you wanted?

I hesitated. “It was… I mean it is! But Molly, she knew nothing of what happened. She is an innocent. We should let her go. She doesn’t deserve this.”

Spinning around me playfully, humming a tune I couldn’t decipher, Tessa pulled herself tight against my back. She whispered, “Oh my poor, sweet, boy. It’s too late for that! I should have taught you this already but silly me forgot! First rule of our kind is to never let a mortal survive once they know what we are. How do you think our kind has stayed hidden all these years? She has to die, unless…

Turning to face her I demanded to know, “Unless what?”

Looking over at Molly with a devious look on her face, Tessa replied, “Unless we turn her. Make her one of us. And wouldn’t it be just beautiful to turn the murdering man of God’s daughter into one of us? The irony of it is so sweet it just has to be fattening!

Jonah called out, “You leave my daughter alone!”

Tessa, with a vicious backhand, shut Jonah up. “Be quiet! We’re not talking to you!” Turning back to me, the smile returned to Tessa’s face. It was both playful and at the same time slightly eerie. Rubbing over my crotch, she whispered in my ear, “I can sense the devotion between the two of you. Devotion is a powerful bond when building a brood. So what do you say, Nicholas? Do we turn her? Or do we kill her? The choice is yours.

It didn’t take me long to answer. “We turn her! Please, my lady, I beg of you! Turn her!”

Strolling away quite carelessly, Tessa said, “If you want her turned, you do it. You become her Sire and the responsibility will be on you to teach her our ways. Her failures will be your failures. Everything she does will reflect back on you. Do you understand?

Nodding in agreement, I approached Molly cautiously. “Molly, do you trust me?”

Trembling slightly, Molly nodded.

“Do you wish to become what I am, to no longer fear disease or death? Will you join me in the darkness of immortality? Will you walk with me in the shadows? Will you be my dark bride?”

Pausing, a smile slowly appeared on Molly’s face. “All I ever wanted was to spend my life with you, Nicholas. Eternity won’t be long enough to walk at your side. I have loved you from the moment I saw you on the boat. Do what you have to do. I accept your offer. I will be your bride.”

I could hear Tessa giggling in the background. “Wonderful! Oh how I love weddings! Nicholas, you know what you have to do.

Sinking my fangs into my wrist, the blood began to flow. As Tessa had done with me, I placed my wrist above Molly’s mouth and let the blood drip down. The first few drops seemed to frighten her, but once she tasted my blood, she seemed to crave it. She lunged for my wrist and I was happy to oblige her by placing it close enough for her to place her mouth upon my wound.

As Jonah sobbed in disapproval, Molly drank. She drank until I began to feel weak so I pulled away and watched as she turned. For the first time, I got to witness the birth of a Vampire for myself. The transformation was both beautiful… and utterly terrifying.

Thrashing about, Molly moaned in agony. She seemed wild, almost feral. She convulsed in the most inhuman of ways. I thought perhaps I’d done the ceremony wrong. “What’s happening to her?” I asked Tessa.

Tessa was sitting rather calmly on a tree stump, taking in the scene. As if it were no big deal whatsoever, she calmly said, “Oh, she’s just dying the mortal death. The same happened to you, but you were so close to death when I found you that the process didn’t take long. For her, the transformation is going to be a wee bit more… painful. It’s simply how it’s done. Nothing to worry about. It will soon pass.

As I watched, Molly took her last mortal breath. Suddenly her eyes had a mysterious glow and her skin became pale like my own. She gazed in wonder at the world she now saw, the world that Tessa had introduced me to, the world hidden behind the world that mortals see. She was reborn, my progeny, my dark bride, my darling Molly.

Caressing her cheek, I said, “The world is different now, isn’t it?”

Smiling, Molly said, “Yes. Very different, yet so familiar. It’s like seeing the world for the very first time.”

Wrapping her arms around me, Tessa said, “Welcome to the family, Molly! Now free yourself so we can finish what we’ve started.

Pulling against the ropes that bound her, Molly easily broke free. She ran up to me, kissing me as Tessa looked on. “My sweet Nicholas! I always dreamed we’d be together an eternity… now we truly can be!”

Laughing, Tessa said, “How sweet, the way my children adore each other.

From the ground, Jonah beckoned to his daughter, “Molly, save me! I’m still your father! Save me!”

Kissing my cheek first, Molly skipped, not walked, up to her father. She knelt down and helped his battered body to its feet. Pulling him close to her bosom, she cradled Jonah like a child. “Daddy,” she whispered, “don’t you see I’m something much more than your daughter now?”

Showing him her fangs, Jonah recoiled. “Oh God no! What have they done to you?! What would your mother say?”

Smiling wickedly, Molly said, “Daddy, mother wouldn’t say anything, she’s dead. You are my father, and I will always love you for the life you gave me… but I’m ashamed to have ever been your daughter!”

Sinking her fangs into Jonah’s neck, Molly began to drink. I watched in amusement and in a little bit of horror as she drained the life from the man I’d grown to hate. In her mortal life, Molly had been the kindest soul I’d ever known, now she was callous and vicious. Although I still loved her, and perhaps I always will, she changed that night. I had made her a monster, just like I was.

Tugging on Molly’s shoulder, Tessa intervened. “No, no, my child. Do not drink him dry, for he is meant for the bonfire. He will experience the pain Nicholas’ mother felt before he is cast down to the pit to burn for all eternity.

Molly pouted, sounding like a small child. “But he’s my father! I want to be the one to kill him.”

Taking Molly’s hand, Tessa placed it within mine. Smiling like a proud parent, Tessa said, “Nicholas is your father now. He gave you this life and you belong to him. He is your Sire, your father, your husband. Forever your fates shall be intertwined. Do you understand?

Kissing me passionately, Molly said joyously, “Yes!”

This seemed to please Tessa, her smile was immeasurable. “Good, now let’s send this heretic where he belongs.

Casting her arms up into the air, Tessa screamed at the top of her lungs, “Oh mighty Morning Star! Light Bearer! Bringer of knowledge! Sweet eternal Father! We, your three children gathered here, offer you this false prophet as sacrifice! Take him, Dark Lord, and make him suffer as few have ever suffered below in the Great Pit in which you rule!

Turning to Jonah, Tessa continued, “You, Jonah Hale, are accused of heresy, of being a false prophet, and a murderer! How do you plead?

Jonah was too weak to answer. Only a thread held him to his mortal coil. The best he could offer was a whimper.

Clutching my hand tightly, Molly clung to me. She seemed reserved, yet I could feel the excitement in her building. She caressed at my neck and purred at every word Tessa said.

Turning to me, Tessa asked, “What say you, Nicholas? Guilty or not guilty?”

Coldly, I said, “Guilty.”

And you, Molly Hale, how do you find the accused?

Squeezing my hand even tighter, Molly said excitedly, “Guilty!”

Crouching down beside Jonah, Tessa picked the preacher up by the nape of neck. “Jonah Hale, you have been found guilty of the accusations made against you. Do you have any final words?

More incoherent nonsense came spewing from Jonah’s mouth. Mocking him, Tessa slapped Jonah in the face playfully, saying, “Well-said. You’ve been sentenced to burn for all eternity. Suffer well, preacher man!

Giving Molly and I a nod, we moved into position. Grabbing Jonah by his feet and shoulders, with one swing we had him thrown upon the bonfire. The crackling of his burning flesh gave me chills as I experienced a flashback to my mother’s death. Watching his skin bubble and blister, I felt a satisfaction I had never known before. My mother and sister had been avenged and a strange peace came over me.

I’m not sure how long I stood there watching Jonah burn, but eventually Molly caught my attention by tugging on my hand. She whispered sweetly, “Darling, I am still thirsty.”

Laughing, Tessa said, “The girl has an appetite that matches my own. I dare say she’s going to be fun!

That’s when I heard Thomas slowly come back to consciousness. Smiling at Molly, I said, “Dinner is served.”

Skipping over to Thomas, I caught Molly humming a tune from our childhood. As she circled the tree he was tied to, I heard her singing, “Ring around the rosies, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall dead!”

Molly was now nose to nose with Thomas. He had absolutely no clue what was going on. “Molly, untie me!”

Shaking her head, Molly said, “Nope!” Turning to me, she said, “Father, teach me how to feed.”

I was more than happy to oblige. Forcing Thomas’ head to the side, I exposed his carotid artery. “There, my darling. Sink your fangs in there and drink until he is dry.”

She was savage. She dove in as if she was starving. Shaking her head with her fangs buried in his neck, blood squirted everywhere. By the time she was done, his head was barely hanging onto his body.

Pulling back, Molly had a sad look upon her face. Wiping her mouth, she asked, “Did I do good, father?”

Smiling, I replied, “A bit messy, but you did very well for your first.”

For a moment she seemed like the mortal Molly I had known all my life. She smiled warmly and wrapped her arms around my neck. “I’m so happy you approve! All I want to do is to make you happy!”

Wrapping her arms around both of us, Tessa sighed, “Oh my sweet little family! Come, before the sun rises let’s destroy what’s left of the colony. We’ll tear it down log by log. It is a symbol, a reminder of your mortal lives, and it must be destroyed. It will be as if it never existed at all!

Molly jumped for joy. Trying to make a game of it, she said, “Come on, Nicholas! Bet I can tear more of it down than you!”

I smiled and said, “Challenge accepted.”

By morning, hardly any part of the colony still stood. Molly and I had torn each building down and tossed the pieces either onto the bonfire or into the nearby waterways. As the sun rose, Tessa came to get us. I didn’t notice her, as I was busy carving something into a stockade board near the colony.

Nicholas, what in the world are you doing?

“Carving the name of the Island where my mother and sister are buried. If anyone comes looking for the colony, perhaps they’ll find their graves and give my family a proper Christian burial. I know it’s what my mother would have wanted.”

Tessa scoffed, “What did I tell you about leaving your humanity behind? Such things should no longer concern you! Isn’t that right, Molly?

I heard Molly laughing. “That’s right, Nicholas! We’re your family now!”

Giggling, Tessa said, “I swear, Nicholas, you use your talons more than any other Vampire I’ve ever known. In fact… Talon! That’s what I’ll call you! Nicholas Watson is dead, but Talon shall live eternally. Do you like your new name?

Leaving my message unfinished, I answered, “I think it suits me, but what do we do now?”

Scrunching up her nose, Tessa thought for a moment. “Oh it’s been years since I’ve been there but there are a people called Mayans that live to the west of here. They’re only mortals, but you have to admire them. In their land the blood flows like a mighty river! It’s a long journey, and we’ll have to stop and feed along the way, but it’s worth every step!

Offering her hand to me, Molly said, “Are you coming, my sweet dark father?”

“But of course.” And why wouldn’t I? Tessa and Molly were now my family. I would follow them to the ends of the earth, wherever our thirst would lead us.

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