by Mark Ivanhoe

Free Sample Chapter


     She saw a beckoning shadow, which spoke to her
without words, and she saw in its embrace destruction,
and that which was worse than destruction.
     Under the eye of the shadow, she saw revealed her
entire life, and its conceits: its causes, faiths,
ideologies, lovers... A parade of futility, dreams broken
and bleeding on the shards of bottles and needles.
     Now that she stood before Evil made manifest, the
realization came to her that her life's petty and vulgar
impurities had been nothing more than an audition for
this moment; her heart, still young in years but burdened
with the weight of her sins, leapt to perceive that she
had been found acceptable: her tepid blood found worthy
for the slaking of the shadow's need....
     Without another backwards glance, she went to it.

Chapter 1


     In the beginning, there was nothing, and that was
good. But ever so slowly, there came to her a flicker of
sensation, an awareness below consciousness that her
existence continued. That was less good, for the long
unknowing sleep had held no dreams, no discomfort. For
the essence of this sensation was pain: a quiet gnawing
that never ceased, like insects worrying at the tissues
of her dead brain.
     Then, there came to her a gradual awareness of
direction. The source of the pain emanated from above her
current position. That knowledge produced in her a
recognition of spatial relationships: if the sensation
came from above, then evidently there was something else
which was below, and her entity occupied a certain area
which was bounded by these other somethings.
     Thus, she came to an awareness that she possessed a
body. So her expanding mind sent forth questings of
nerve-currents, to seek the bounds of her flesh. Her
torso she discovered, and her limbs, and finally
sensation reached even to the tips of her fingers and
toes. Yes, she possessed a body, and one of human shape,
but there was no sensation to it, save only for the
continuing experience of its pain, which persisted
without dulling.
     Up to this point, there had been no sight or sound
to interrupt the discovery of her body. Now, softly and
faintly, she began to be aware of a distant scuffling
sort of noise, muted as if it came from beyond a barrier.
The sound rapidly became louder and nearer, until it was
just beyond the cubicle or receptacle in which she was
contained. Then there was the hard noise of the splinter-
ing of wood, and a sound of lifting.
     Light shot into her space, piercing, crushing, and
the pain became many degrees of magnitude greater. She
forced her muscles into their first movement, drawing her
arms up to her face to hide it from the light. There came
a low, painful whine, which she slowly realized was
coming out of her own throat.
     A voice came down from above her: "Stop that. You
look like a cretin. Come along, get up, the night isn't
going to last forever."
     She withdrew her hands, opened her eyes, and looked
up the shaft of her grave to see a tall figure which
stood on its edge. It was male, dressed in black garments
from throat to foot. The hurtful moonlight reflected down
off his high forehead and hooked nose, but left coal
shadows in his eye-sockets, below the hairy brows. She
was distressed by that face and tried to shrink back,
seeking the safety of her casket. But he reached down,
and his arm stretched all the way down to her in an
unnatural fashion, and, seizing her in a wrenching grip,
brought her up to the level of the ground.
     The man looked her over with a distasteful grimace,
and then broke into a smile without humor. "You're a
mess. In all the days you were conscious down there,
didn't it ever occur to you that you had the power to
halt the decay processes and keep all the vermin away
from you?" he remarked drily. His voice was deep and
harsh, but not entirely lacking in melody. His eyes
remained hidden in shadow. "Excuse me, I have been
remiss," he continued. "I've failed to give you the
greeting which my people traditionally offer to those who
have joined their ranks." He gave a mock bow, and said,
with a note of derision: "I welcome you, once child of
mortal flesh, now heir of the unending mastery, to the
brethren of the night-tide, the keepers of the blood-
quenched thirst. Spurn the agony of the day and abide
with me, until the dark has conquered and ceases not."
Then he strode to her and struck her across the face so
that she collapsed on the ground. "And let that be your
very first lesson: I am your Master in everything you
say, do and think, and I have a quick and capricious
     He smiled again down upon her. "But I am also kind-
hearted when I want to be. You're nothing but an empty
shell. Fill yourself." He withdrew from somewhere on his
person a small furry thing which cried with fear, and
handed it to her. She gripped it, turning it over in her
hands, listening to its squeals. After a moment, she
clutched it to her breast and looked puzzled. The Master
laughed mockingly again. "You bite it, girl! Bite it and
drain the good things inside it!"
     Following his gesture, she did just that. There was
a small rush of warm stuff into her throat, which she
automatically swallowed. It was bitter, and seemed to
burn her a little as it went down, but after she was
finished there was a slight alleviation of the gnawing
pain. She smiled a little at that.
     She wanted more, but had no words in her to ask. She
stood there, silent in the moonlight, her entire being
filled with supplication to him, the provider. This
helplessness in her softened something in him, so that he
smiled softly and reached out to give her the slightest
of caresses. She flinched at the first contact, but
seeing that this was not to be another blow allowed
herself to flow into his hands. Then he spoke to her
again: "You're still no better than an animal. You can
hear what I'm saying but you can't understand anything
but the tones of the words I speak.
     "Should I keep you like this? Do I want yet another
brute blindly following behind me, reminding me of my own
hungry lower nature? Or shall I mold you into some exotic
form that amuses me? I can do that. When I drained you,
it wasn't only the blood that I devoured, but all of your
memories with it, all your dreams and motivations... If
I wanted to, I could reach into the stock I have inside
me, of the uncounted millions who have felt my sharp
kiss, and choose a little bit of thought here, another
belief there, and make you into a completely new person
according to my fancy....
     "But that's not what I want tonight. I want you to
be free beside me, within the limits I'll impose; for
that, I am going to restore to you all your past, a full
awareness of your position, and your fate."
     He took her face between both hands, brought it
close to his, and at last she could see the fierce eyes
within his sockets. They seethed and burned, and the fire
leapt out towards her, causing a scorching unlike the
other pain she felt. It strove against her, the light of
his eyes, piercing into and violating her inner being,
and planted in her mind the knowledge of what she was and
was to be.
     "Your name is Elizabeth."