This is a work of dark angst and violence. You’ve been warned. Romanian words are in italics.
Inspired by Chrono Cross soundtrack, Disc 3, track 9.
Singe. Still warm. Still liquid slick as it runs down the family sabie.
Iron in blood and steel in blade, it’s all metallic to my taste. But the few drops are precious, too precious to fall uncaring to the ground.
I ignore the whimper from my throat, the small shiver of want, sucking all the darkness from a few drops on a blade. Then it’s over. Too quickly. But that’s all. It’s all I can have.
So I remember the dead of this sabie. This one, the one I just killed, strigoi. Oh, he was not my father, by any means of power. But he was strigoi like him. Vampire.
This one had been tricky. But I am a Strigoi Urigas, a Vampire Killer, and I am never easily taken in by the cheap illusions of the undead.
From across the mist in this human field of the fallen, a sonorous bell tolls. Twelve rings. The devil’s hour.
I hate this month. The newborn thing, born with the knell of the bell, is the birth of everything I hate. They become strong, strong already in preparation for Devil’s Night at the death of the month, only to be replaced by the purity of All Souls Day.
At least that would be what most people think. But the strigoi and their ilk, if no one stops them, they will rule and be enough to overpower the month of souls.
However, every year they are stopped by people like myself. Strigoi Urigas. Every year, it’s the same. And I’ve done this every year.
Most people think I sleep all the centuries away. And I do, but for this one month, I am here. Awake. Fighting. I never see what the world has become, for all my fighting is done in darkness.
Tiredly, I slide my back against a tombstone. The occupant probably doesn’t mind it much, his or her soul already flown elsewhere. The negura, the thick mist, would cloud a human’s sight, but not me or those I hunt.
They come to places like this for power. Sometimes they’re born from here, so this is the place I watch in this month of hated things. If something large should happen elsewhere, I would go. Otherwise I stay here.
There’s a good reason why the strigoi pick this place from time to time. The Romanian on the tombstones signifies this as royal ground. These were the relatives of Vlad Tepes in life. Some were brothers, friends and children and grandchildren and so on. They need guarding. Especially the children. Unknowning things born from the union of a vampire in disguise and human women. Dhampirs. But…never showed the power. Humanity seemed to be their luck. But the potential that must exist within them would be an easy thing for any creature of my father’s realm.
So I guard them. None have been used yet. The recently demised strigoi was foolish and now remains as the fading memory of his blood on my tongue.
The night is slow. I have infinite patience, but there are times I wish I could move the sun where I wished.
So I get up and walk around, holding my family blade in one gloved hand, making sure nothing is amiss. My muted footfalls take me to the inner sanctum of a mausoleum. There is much negura outside, but the stained glass windows glitter with candle flame.
Who keeps them lit?
And who was this soul? The coffin seems rather extravagant. There’s no one living from Tepes’ line anymore but myself, so it could not be that.
Ahhh. Some sort of public official. A mayor of the town who owns this graveyard. Let me see…
"…is credited with bringing the city into prosperity after World War II, who was kind, selfless in all things and brought honor to the people. He helped modernize our fair town into something more than a collective of peasants, who still whispered the old stories about strigoi and monstrus and the fabled Dracula, into an envious place the rest of Romania wishes it could copy…"
Sa-l ia dracu. Fables? Da, I’d like to know how well this town would have prospered without hunters and a dhampir pushing back all the fables so you and your ignorant peasants can dredge in your useless existences.
"…May you have eternal rest for all your hard work…"
Ce? What did this flesh and blood creature do to have such rest? Ordering others around, like a lup leader does to his pack? Any man can direct as well as a lup, so why does this man get to eternally rest here? In this soft marble and stained glass luminate?
I am quick to escape there, footfalls crunching on the gravel path. No disturbances. Nothing marred. Only the dead at their rest.
They’re all resting. Why cannot I have this gift? What makes these humans so worthy of not having to care for anything anymore? Where the pressures of the world do not touch them.
Dumnezeu sa-l ia dracu! This is why…this is why I hate this month. It is full of everything I hate. More than those I fight, I loathe those I must protect. The eternally resting and the still living in the town outside this mist.
They don’t care. They don’t care!
Something stirs in one of the graves. My rant interrupted, I flit over to the tomb and exert my will upon the restless one. It can sense the power shift, but with my will, the potential dhampir loses interest, gratefully falling back into eternal slumber.
For a moment, I don’t realize what I’ve done. Then a heartbeat later, I grab the family blade and slice through several dead tree limbs.
Why?! Is this my purpose? To be guard and guardian for all eternity of those who get to sleep? The potential dhampirs who were spared any drop of true anguish? To protect the fat cattle of humanity with my blade? To not be able to…
I wish I could do it. Suck the blood from a strigoi with no fears and relish in the dark salty liquid draining down my throat…oh…to taste…yes…not be afraid…let it fill every part of me…
But I can’t imagine what it is to that, so my breathing slows. I have no idea what it would do to me, sucking in a vampire’s blood with no inhibitions. To a human, it’s half the process of turning vampire. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know what that would do to a dhampir. So all I can have are the last few drops of my enemies from my sabie. Only faint whispers of pleasure. The only pleasure I have, for with time, what it meant to be human in sharing pleasure has eluded me, died with the mixing of my vrajmaisie. Bad blood.
They have no inhibitions, the vampires do. They suck and suck and suck the singe and soul from a person ‘til death or making their victim like themselves, so then two can terrorize the cattle.
From a clocktower, the sound of singular echoes through the place of the dead.
Idly, I pick up one of the dead branches and begin sharpening it with my blade.
I have half the blood of that which I fight. Does it make that much of a difference between us? Is it my humanity that lets me resist the constant temptation? But that’s not really true…for there are humans who could surpass the simple blood-sucking desires a vampire in sheer cruelty. And they get to sleep. Even everyone I kill, I send them to sleep.
The family sabie shakes in my hand as I keep sharpening the branch.
I hate them. I hate all of them. Despite what my mother told me…
"Do not hate humans, for theirs is already a hard lot. If you cannot live with them then at least do no harm against them."
I hate them and I still guard them. Fat cattle sleeping soundly with no worries other than how to backstab each other. Cattle who get to sleep when their tasks are done…sa-l ia dracu.
There are times that I want to be like my father. True, he has been defeated many times, but he only has to draw breath once a century. And while he draws breath, he manipulates where he wills to control humanity and reigns supreme…until a strigoi urigas knocks him down.
To control the humans…yes, I’d like that very much. To be like my father and manipulate them as easily as if I were controlling strings on a puppet. I’d make them fight each other until all their sweet singe soaked the earth and I could finally finally feast on that…
But nyet! Nyet! I must play guard to them. Time and time again I must be a lowly guard to kill what I want, dealing death where I cannot find rest. I am the son of the king of strigoi and I cannot find rest anywhere!
The branch becomes a wickedly sharp thing under my sword.
They don’t care, Mother! Matusa, they think I’m a fable. They think we’re all fables and what is not seen in their lives is not there. I guard and guard and guard and I have no choices. I have no choices. Why do I guard them? How can I not hate them?
With the hilt of my blade, I hammer the branch into the ground. It stands easily upright in the earth of the dead.
I want so badly to sleep…I get to do that most of the year, but I wish I could sleep for centuries on end…even when I only appear one month of the year for so many years it’s like I’m constantly awake.
But nyet! The strigoi make their mischief, Dracula makes his mischief and they’re sent painlessly asleep for another century. Why? Why?
"Arde-tu draculi, strigoi!" My voice covers more ground than that knell in the tower.
I’m just a fable…a fable…so…so maybe they’re right. If the humans don’t believe in us anymore…maybe we shouldn’t exist. If there are no tales to spread and we aren’t believed then why continue this charade? This dance.
I deserve sleep. After decades of constant life and this ritual of a month a year for 500 years, I will take my sleep!
Yes…yes…sleep…sleep without caring. I have no choices but I will take this one…
It’s so easy, so easy to leap into the air, once, twice, more and more until I can see the stars above the cover of the mist. Then I fall, laying my body flat against the wind, my hair whipping behind me like a spectral trail.
And I fall, fall, fall, right toward my salvation.
Wooden stake piercing heart. Wood slicing tainted flesh.
Oh God, oh God, oh God….singe…my own singe from my mouth…I’m screaming…body jerking for something…hands scrabbling earth, tearing it…
Mother..? At least I’ll see you…Dumnezeu! …*cough*…*choke*….*sigh*…
The knell proclaims the hour of Gemini.
A swift breath and a coughing fit overtake me and I jerk to my feet. Ce? Ce? What? What? But I…
A swallow hurts, sucking back in needed blood. I pat my chest down.
There is no mark at all.
The shirt, torn. Overcoat, shredded. Even went through my vampire cape. But there’s no mark on me at all. Startled, I look at the ground. It’s sticky, covered with drying singe. The stake looks like it was spit out of my body violently. It’s embedded to the hilt in the tree it came from.
Oh my God.
Oh my God.
I cannot find rest. My body rejects it. A stake would kill a strigoi, but I am not. A stake would kill a piece of human cattle, but I’m still here.
I can’t die. I can’t die this way.
Dumnezeu, Dumnezeu, Dumnezeu…my shaking arms circle my exposed chest. I can’t die.
Stramos? Did you know about this? When you made me, a dhampir, that I wouldn’t be able to die? Did you know, stramos?!
I can’t have sleep…and I can’t die because my body rejects death.
"Daca ai Haos putrezi tau carne ui oase, Stramos!"
My scream reaches beyond human pitch. How dare he?! He must have known! He had to have!
The sky, the night sky is obscured and my whole body shakes with the sound of my cry. The clouds are pulled, attracted by the sound that goes on and on. A well of darkness to rain upon the hopeless world. It’s a rain of darkness. Obscuritate fulger snakes and strikes the rest of the dead tree, burning it to a cinder. It strikes me and my body, hated corcitura, dhampir thing sucks up the darkness like apa to a thirsty man.
"I hate all of you!!"
The dark lightning scythes from my hands and mows down the tops of the already skeletal trees. "Am I a fable now, cattle?! Well, am I? Is the dark rain and lightning falling from the sky something not real, humans?!"
Somewhere in the howling of myself and the storm, I find my sword and hold it on high, catching obscuritate fulger and flinging it back into the sky.
The pounding rain disorients me and I’m stumbling, flinging death everywhere until my feet slip on rock and I crack my chin at the foot of a statue.
I can’t hold onto it, hold onto the power, so I let it go. The Darkness fueled storm dissipates into a steady rain. I curl my hands around my face, cool sword flat against my forehead and I weep, something I haven’t done in centuries.
I rock, I weep, I rock, I weep and, since I have vampire heritage, my tears are blood, trailing warm across my corpse pale face and fall like the rain on the steel of my blade.
The knell sounds the hour of the trinity.
The rain has slowed to a soft patter. Rain, like all water, is deadly to vampires, but not to me. I’ve grown immune to it in time, like sunlight and stakes.
A shaking hand encased in a leather glove collects the bloody tears from my eyes. Calmer, but still weighed heavy with everything, I look up at the statue’s face.
"They said…they said at one time, you cried blood for your destiny. But I’m not as great as you are."
The world is washed in the purifying touch of apa. It even soothes the trees that were destroyed, soothed so much that things change and somehow, I can’t catch it, but things return to when I started tonight. Everything is still and the negura returns.
I look down at my blade. The tears of blood are still warm. Reverently, I lift the family sabie to my lips and taste the defeat of this one at my hands. But there is no pleasure at my defeat. Only soul-numbing silence.
I turn my head to the statue again. "Imi pare rau, Stramos."
I have no choices. I cannot find eternal rest. I cannot suck the blood of my vanquished for fear of becoming like them. I cannot live like the cattle. I cannot die by my own hand.
I have no choices.
So I guard. I guard them. I hate them, but I guard them.
They are weak cattle and they think I don’t exist. They think if they ignore us we’ll go away. But they’re wrong. They’d like to believe that.
However inconsequential their lives are, they are there. However much hatred they dredge upon themselves, they have choices. Theirs is already a hard lot…like Mother said.
So I guard them. So even with their small and tiny lives they can have choices. Small choices, big choices.
I guard them so no one will suffer like me, without any choices.
Hour of the Devil:
Singe = blood
Sabie = sword
Strigoi = vampire
Strigoi urigas = vampire killer
Negura = mist
Monstrus = monsters
Sa-l ia dracu = damn it
Da = yes
Ce? = what?
Lup = wolf
Dumnezeu = God
Dumnezeu sa-l ia dracu = God damn it
Vrajmasie = bad blood
Hour of the Singular:
Nyet = no
Matusa = mother
Arde-tu draculi, strigoi! = burn in hell, vampires!
Hour of the Gemini
Stramos = father
Daca ai Haos putrezi tau carne ui oase, Stramos! = May Chaos rot your flesh and bones, father!
Obscuritate fulger = Dark lightning
Corcitura = half-blood
Apa = water
Hour of the Trinity
Imi pare rau = I am sorry.