The Master gently ran his pale, clawed hand across the wall that surrounded the altar of the
abandoned church. A thick accumulation of dust, mould and dirt fell away to reveal the
faded, painted image of a golden cross with a beautiful white dove in flight above it.
The vampire lord averted his eyes from the holy symbol. "I wonder if the devoted will still retain their faith when their pathetic reality is torn asunder and the Great Old Ones return to reclaim that which once belonged to them?"
Across the broad, circular chamber, Lorimer - one of those in the upper hierarchy of the
Order of Aurelius who had been gifted with the title of Deacon - looked to his master
briefly and then returned to his task. He was busy making certain that the body of the dead
eight-year-old girl with the curly blonde hair and pink lace party dress was sitting up
With a disgusted sigh, Lorimer turned his attention to two other dead children propped in wooden chairs beside the first: another girl perhaps a few years older and a cherubic, dark- haired boy no older than six.
"Lorimer, do I hear the taint of displeasure in your tone?" He stopped beside the vampire who continued to fuss with the children's corpses. "Is there something you wish to share with me?"
The Master reached out and gently stroked his servant's chin with long, spidery fingers.
"Come now, Lorimer," he urged. "We've been through far too much together to keep
The Master chuckled, a low rumbling sound that came from somewhere deep in his throat.
"Faithful Lorimer, now is as good a time as any. Please, share with me the cause of your
grief," he cajoled. "What upsets you also upsets me."
Lorimer pointed to the three dead children sitting in the chairs upon the altar. "This, this is what displeases me - the waste of it." Lorimer's stomach gurgled. He clutched at his belly and looked to his master with embarrassment. "We are starving, and here sit three delicious morsels whose lives were snuffed out not with fang but with a feather pillow as they slept. I know they are an important facet of the ceremony but surely the Old Ones would not deny us sustenance as we prepare to restore them to power."
The Master shook his head and clucked with disappointment. "The youth of today have no appreciation for ritual." He placed his hands behind his back and began to pace. "The fast that I imposed upon the Order is to purify and cleanse your spirit, for you are soon to be in the presence of gods."
His voice echoed throughout the chamber and his followers shuddered and flinched to hear
it. "Imagine my embarrassment if the Old Ones were to be greeted by an Order of the
Aurelius stinking of human cattle." The Master touched his chest with a clawed hand.
"How do you think that would reflect upon me?"
The Master stopped pacing and glared at him. "Must I explain everything? The ritual to sunder the Hellmouth is a complex one and special guidance is required if we are to be successful." He approached the children. "These three shall be the instruments for this counsel." The Master patted each upon the head. "Three untainted vessels are needed to communicate with those who wait beyond the veil."
He reached up and again stroked Lorimer's chin, gently at first, but then grabbed it firmly in
his clawed grasp and turned it to face him. Viciously he wrenched the vampire's jaw to one
side and then the other. Lorimer shrieked as the flesh tore and the bone cracked and his
lower jaw was ripped from his face.
The Master tossed the bleeding mandible into the Deacon's waiting arms. As Lorimer
attempted to reattach the section of his damaged face, his tongue flapped about, gruesomely
exposed. Blood spurted from the terrible wound and sprayed across the altar - and the pale
faces of the three dead children. The Master was just about to reprimand the Deacon for
making a mess when he noticed the slightest bit of movement behind one of the corpse's
Although her mouth did not move, the little girl in the party dress was the first to address him. "Heinrich Joseph Nest," she said in a guttural language older than recorded history, "we have come to help you pave the way for our return."
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