This first chapter gives a peek into the alternate universe New York.
FROM ALASKA TO NEW YORK
Half a century had passed since his last visit and a full century since the body had been relocated from its previous tomb inside a cave, high up in the Vinson Mountains. Quite a journey it had been too, moving a corpse from Antarctica all the way to Alaska and the logistics of it quite problematic without the infrastructure of the twentieth century. The body was resting deep inside a maze-like cave near the peak of Mount Denali, or mount McKinley as some still called it. Anshar wasn’t exactly a corpse - nothing as permanent as that. In a way he was still very much alive, simply unaware of the centuries that merged into millennia since he had last walked and terrorized the face of the Earth. Two thousand three hundred and fifty years had passed since a witch had sentenced him to his unending sleep. At least there was no consciousness inside him to feel the passing of time. Or was there? So many times Egil had contemplated the horror of Anshar still being conscious while in his coma-like sleep, aware of everything around him: the cold, the loneliness, the hunger and the scarce and quiet visits his first creation paid him. His first creation and no one else.
On occasion it seemed like much too severe of a punishment, but, for the most part, it was exactly what the monster that laid dormant under marble-like skin deserved. The grey eyes under his closed lids had snuffed out the light in countless others and that is without including the casualties on the battlefields. The fangs covered by perfectly sculpted and pale lips had fed on many innocent and guilty alike. Then again, the same could be said for Egil and he knew, as he was looking down on his maker’s body laying on the stone that served as a bed, that the very same fate was what he and all of his brothers and sisters as well as all their offspring should be sharing for those same crimes. What did numbers matter after all? A few hundreds more or less when it came to counting victims was useless with so many centuries of playing with, preying and feeding on mortals. His poor sire had been the first and, in a way, uniquely tortured, with no control over what had happened to him. A frown disturbed the handsome facial features of the vampire as old memories flooded his mind: images of his wife’s bloodied body strewn on their bed, his sister’s lifeless eyes looking up at the ceiling from the floor of their room and his little brother’s body sprawled in the garden, near the fountain. He hadn’t known then that the man he would come to view as a savior, mentor, friend, ally, king and so much more, was responsible for the torment he still felt at that memory - the sight of his slaughtered loved ones, his family.
The pain had dulled over the centuries, but that only angered and confused Egil even more. No amount of time should have lessened such agony - be it years, centuries or aeons. He felt like a monster for not being able to experience the same raging torture that he had felt in the darkest day of his life as a mortal. He was a monster for it and for many other things as well. After that tragedy had come Thagi. Thagi had been yet another victim of Anshar’s jealousy and he didn’t even, to that day, have any idea about how she had met her end. That same monster responsible for the greatest losses in his life was also responsible for gifting him with immortality and many years of unrivalled happiness and pleasure. He was the man Egil hated and loved above all others, his maker, his sire and his greatest enemy. He longed to hear his voice and see the look he used to give him, full of passion and possibilities, but all his desire was laced with pain and hate. This hate he found himself having to work to hang onto and keep its flame burning over the years - refusing to let go of it even if it had to be refueled each time with painful memories from the past of a person who no longer existed. Anshar was as dead as he was going to get and that was the way it was going to remain for the time being. Forever, if all went according to Egil’s wishes.
The vampire turned around at human speed, facing away from Anshar’s resting form. He hadn’t said a word the whole time he had been there, nor were there any he wanted to say to his maker. The vampire had voiced it all in his early visits - he had raged, cried and screamed his hate as well as proclaimed his love. He had sworn eternal loathing and also professed his desire to relive the days they had spent together and to be able to look at him and not see the creature that had slaughtered his entire family and had robbed him of a chance at a second love. There was nothing left to say and more than five hundred years had passed since he had last uttered a word in the presence of Anshar’s lifeless form. He lingered for a second, as still as the corpse laying on the stone. A drop of water parted ways with the tip of the stalactite it had been clinging to and fell into a perfectly still puddle of water. Ripples formed one after the other and, although they started as concentric circles, they hit the uneven edges and chaotically bounced back, disturbing those that had formed later. There was no more calmness or order where a perfect stillness had previously reigned. All that because of one little drop of water. It’s echo traveled through the tunnels of the cave and Egil’s sensitive hearing picked it up. One second later he was gone and the puddle was still struggling to go back to its previous state of calmness, but it was going to take forever.
The journey back down the mountain was going to take Egil a couple of days, but at least that meant it was going to be impossible for any human to accidentally find the cave. Humans barely managed to climb the mountain, so exploring it and it’s many caves was out of the question. His brothers and sisters also looking for their sire probably had no idea how misplaced their search efforts were. The last time he had checked up on their progress, they were back to running around in circles around the area that used to be the ancient Assyrian Kingdom from where both Anshar and Egil originated and where Kishargal had cursed the vampire. His body had never returned to those parts ever since it had come into Egil’s possession and there were no traces leading back to him.
The city of New York awaited Egil’s return. In truth, New York had met Caiden Thorne and Egil was a name that stayed back, locked in the tomb with the man who gave that same name meaning, immortality, power and pain beyond imagining.
Caiden Thorne was an old vampire, almost eight hundred years old, and it was the identity known by the world because Egil, the three thousand years old vampire, the first of the First Generation of vampires, turned directly by Anshar, didn’t exist. His brothers and sisters didn’t know about him. Anshar had never mentioned him to them - he had essentially been removed from the family tree. He, on the other hand, knew all of them very well. The manipulative and intelligent Aram, always hungry for power and scheming to create a better world for the reawakening of his maker. The painfully beautiful, but equally deadly and always envious Livia. Wise Solon with the biggest superiority complex Egil had ever witnessed in all his years - and that was saying something. The charming, fun, womanizer and deceitful puppeteer Valerius and the youngest of them all, the gem, the one who didn’t fit, yet the one who kept a fragile semblance of balance, sanity and kindness among those of the First Generation, Charis. He had kept tabs on all of them over the years and they all currently found themselves in the same city. No matter how big New York was, holding them all together could prove to be too much for any one city.
His five brothers and sisters formed the High Council, the only true authority recognized by vampires, yet still very little known to most humans. Oh, the humans! Wouldn’t they have been better off kept in the dark about their kind and the other supernaturals? It had once been that way. The year 1946 was when it all started shifting and vampires and witches began surfacing - indeed, just after the second world war, while the world was still tired and licking its wounds. Everything went according to a well designed agenda and, in truth, it had been a wonderful masterpiece of planning, diplomacy, marketing and manipulation. Oh how all supernatural species played the victim cards and offered every help possible placing themselves in the service of humans. It wasn’t like complete annihilation was even an option. No, they became citizens with rights and feelings. Protests, violent and otherwise, all eventually simmered down and let way to change. Laws changed, religions changed and conceptions as well. The transition went smoothly in many places around the worls and the US was probably the place where the change was accepted the easiest.
It’s amazing what humans are capable to adapt to. Vampire blood in hospitals saved more lives than anything else, Sharur policed the supernaturals and also helped with catching human criminals by aiding the police, and witches came with their perks too. With how very few and rare vampires and witches were, it was very unusual for people to ever even lay eyes on one, much less be in danger from them. That was the story one would read in the newspaper or saw on the TV, of course. And people tend to want to believe, don’t they? A beautiful lie is always easier to swallow than an ugly truth and that is how, seventy years later, the world found itself at peace and settled into a new order.
No, vampires were not as rare as mortals believed, neither were witches or Sharur. To be fair, most witches could barely light a match using magic and it was mostly smoke screen, but there were those few among them who could and had already reshaped the whole world. The secret was to be careful: turning someone into a vampire was strictly regulated. Not the way humans believed it to be, but there were rules. Biting humans who were unwilling was also strictly forbidden and punishable by death in the worst case. It happened a lot more than you’d think, but it was all covered expertly. Humans were having their world being slowly taken from under their feet while they were blissfully patting themselves on the back for being tolerant, accepting and accommodating to all of “God’s creatures”.
There were parts of the world more chaotic when it came to the change. Most chose to embrace, co-exist and do their best to make it work, but other countries chose to persecute supernaturals, kill them indiscriminately or simply forbid them entrance and those were the ones that made the news, of course. Other small towns were overrun by supernaturals and humans lived in fear, but word about them barely ever made it even in the shadiest of tabloids. The High Council was the tip of the iceberg and it’s tentacles reached deep and wide. The humans only knew what they wanted them to know. In fact, no one had any idea how close to the edge of the precipice the world as they knew it truly was.
New York city was one of the locations where supernaturals seemed to converge. The seat of the High Council of vampires as well as home to the most respected group of Sharur Elders. Three of the leaders of the major five covens of witches also resided in New York City. Politically it made sense. Practically - it made New York a time bomb. Tic tac.