The Shadow Of Rhiannon

ISBN: 978-0-557-01124-7 Publisher: Lulu.com Rights Owner: Sara Pope Copyright: © 2004 Sara Pope

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Forward This is a new vision of vampires and humanity. In these pages you will see violence, sex, torture and war. This is what would happen if the American public is allowed to see what could be among us. Lets look at the facts. Every continent in the world has their myths and fables about vampires, dating back to pre-civilization, even before the different societies knew about each other. This novella is written from a recurring nightmare that continued from one night to the next for two months. Each dream was a continuation of the last, very frightening to me, but entertaining. I decided to write the whole thing down while it was still fresh in my mind. I started it three years ago and, thanks to my significant other, Jerry and outside encouragement from many others, I finished the novella you are about to experience and finally got it published after being turned down many, many times. I thank everyone that has encouraged me, given me positive, (and negative) feedback. Sara Pope

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Index

2. Book One - Rhiannon 69. Book Two – Persecution and War 136. Book Three – Out of Annihilation

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Book One - Rhiannon

The Shadow of Rhiannon Chapter One The L.A. Streets were crowded with people, mostly the refuse of society. Prostitutes scanned traffic for customers, would be Prophets shouted at the crowds about the “Rapture” and the consequences of their sin, and a wide variety of “sinners” stood around and walked the sidewalks. A tall, dark woman made her way through the droves of humanity. She seemed to be searching for something. Her crystal-blue eyes met those of anyone who glanced her way. The intensity of her gaze made some cringe, while intriguing others. Her waistlength black hair that reflected the neon blues, greens, and reds like a dark mirror framed her slender form. She wore a black ankle-length bodysuit and a long velvet coat. Eyes,

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male and female alike, fell upon her and followed her movement. Finally, she spotted her quarry and approached him. She remained silent, but her eyes communicated desire. He turned to face her, caught up in her hungry gaze. She touched his face for a few seconds, then turned and walked down a dark alley, casting a long look back over her shoulder. He stood for a moment in a daze, and then snapping back to lucidity, quickly strode to catch up with her. He could barely catch a glimpse of her, and then she was gone again. He stopped and looked about, confused by her mixed message. Suddenly she stood before him, her eyes communicating the same desire. Before he knew what he was doing he stepped forward and pressed his body against hers, his hands roaming over her firm body. She was warm and receptive to his touch and moaned softly into his ear. He became excited and his caresses became rougher. Rhiannon reached outward with her right arm and a serrated hooked blade shot out of its sheath and into her hand. She quickly sank the blade into his

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lower abdomen and ripped it upward, slicing him from groin to sternum. Before he could scream, she sliced through his throat with one deft movement and he gurgled weakly on his own blood, falling to the concrete pavement of the alley and rolling onto his back. Rhiannon straddled the dying man and dipped her lips into his slashed throat, yanking his head back with her left hand. She loved the flavour of blood and drank it deeply as it poured from the wound.

As darkness gave way to light the city awakened. An older woman opened her window and stepped out onto the fire escape to hang some pantyhose out to dry. In the alley below she spotted the form of a very dead man lying in a pool of sticky blood. Her screams alerted the other

neighbours in her building and they, one by one, opened their windows to see what was going on. Soon the area was swarming with officers. The serial killer had struck again.

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Rhiannon relaxed in a tub of clean water, having already showered off the caked blood from her body. She listened to the early morning news from the television in the other room, a wry smile curving her lips. She loved hearing about her work. Her washing machine was rinsing the blood from her favourite outfit. She would have to run it a second time of course; it always took two washes to get it all out. She drained the water from the bathtub and dressed herself, watching the news carefully. The anchorman told the public that there was still no conclusive evidence to identify the murderer that had taken twelve lives over the past month. No fingerprints were evident and the only thing that had been found was a long strand of black hair. He advised the public to stay indoors at night and be careful while the killer was still at large. “Like that’s ever going to happen in this town.” Rhiannon murmured to herself with a giggle. She opened the refrigerator door and selected an orange from the vegetable crisper. She crossed into her living room and sank into her sofa. She had taken the man’s wallet from the night before.

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She opened it and counted the money inside. He had several credit cards, but they were of no use to her. She was rewarded for her night’s activity with $435 in cash. Thankfully the money had no blood upon it. She slid the bills into her own purse and then settled back and peeled the orange. Breakfast was always a light one, as she could not stomach milk or most solid foods. She still had an hour to kill before she had to start getting ready for work, so she relaxed and ate the fruit. The bar was just starting to fill up when Rhiannon arrived. She slipped quietly into a back room and changed into patent leather pants and a short shirt that showed off her tiny waist. She pulled on a pair of high heeled boots and laced them up to her knees. She didn’t require much makeup, just lipstick for her ample lips and eyeliner. She took her place behind the bar and got a short, stocky man a draught beer. Exotic dancers made love to poles while others gyrated inside cages set about the room. The men slopped beer on the counter and eyed the dancers, producing money and handing it to them for lap dances and

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removal of various items of clothing. Rhiannon felt her usual surge of revulsion at the sights around her, but suppressed the feeling, saving her anger for tonight. She was thankful that she ran the bar and was not one of the women being ogled by the man/pigs. She did not know why she had taken this job, but it was all she knew. She remembered her father, who had been a man/pig himself. Her mother had died when she was very young. Her father used to go to bars like this one, bringing her with him. While the dancers had distracted him, other men in the bar had turned their attention to her periodically, forcing her into the rest room and fondling her until she could get away from them. Her father did not seem to care, or even notice. She refilled a couple of mugs and accepted the money from the customers, sliding it into the cash drawer. She was an object of scrutiny also; she could feel eyes roving over her body and face. She forced a smile and went on serving

drinks when called upon. A topless waitress came to her

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periodically and she filled the trays with different kinds of drinks, mixing them with expertise. Suddenly she sensed something else in the room and scanned the crowd. A tall man stood against the wall,

wearing a black trench coat and sunglasses despite the darkness of the bar. Long, blonde hair spilled over his shoulders. He seemed to be studying her from a distance, not interested in drinking or the dancers. He noticed her attention and he slowly faded from sight, becoming dimmer, almost transparent, then he was gone. Rhiannon blinked, unable to comprehend what she had just seen. “Are you going to get me a beer or what?” She looked up and forced her smile, “Bottle or Draught.” The businessman that had spoken to her smiled back and told her to get him a bottle. She turned to the refrigeration unit behind her and took a bottle from the shelf. Uncapping it, she got out a coaster and set the beer down on it. “That will be three dollars.” He slid the money across the counter to her and dropped a few more bills into her tip jar.

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“Are you okay?” “I’m fine, just had a long night” The day wore on and she did her job well, her tip jar was full by the time she left the bar, sliding the money into her purse. The sun sank low on the horizon and she decided to stay on the streets. She was looking for an untainted victim this time, a clean-cut businessman of some kind. She walked several blocks to the tall buildings and skyscrapers. She sensed that she was being followed, but when she looked back, all she could see was a stray cat. A large amount of men and women crowded the entrance to the subway, some talking to each other, some on cellular phones, and others walked alone through the crowd, carrying briefcases and laptops. She turned her footsteps to one of the tall buildings and entered a parking garage, carefully avoiding showing her face to the security cameras. Night had fallen, and Rhiannon stayed inside the shadows. One by one, the cars left. Finally, a man strode from the elevator and out into the parking garage. He fumbled around in his pockets for his car

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keys, not noticing Rhiannon emerging from the shadows. She walked slowly behind him, and then changed her course to an arc to intercept him. He looked up and spotted her, she smiled shyly and he smiled back to her. He kept up his pace to his car and began to unlock the door when she approached him. “I’m lost,” She looked into his eyes “Do you know the directions to Park Haven Drive?” “I can take you there,” He smiled kindly “It’s not far from here. Besides, a pretty lady like you shouldn’t be walking around alone in parking garages. You are lucky I’m a decent guy.” He stepped around the car and unlocked the passenger side door. He opened it and Rhiannon got in. He slid into the driver’s seat and backed the car from its designated parking space. Rhiannon could see that he was some kind of executive from the words painted on the concrete block heading the parking space. They drove back the way Rhiannon had come. She looked at his hands on the steering wheel and found his finger blessedly free of a wedding band.

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“Would you like to stop somewhere?” She asked. “I could buy you a drink.” He smiled, but kept his eyes on the road. “I think a park is close to here. Why don’t we just get some wine and go on a little stroll?” This man was no different from the suits that came into her club, Rhiannon decided. He was looking for a cheap good time. Well, it was going to be she that was going to have all the fun. They pulled into a mini mall and he got out with a word to her to stay in the car, he would be right back. She obeyed, but as soon as he went into the building, she got out her trusty hook blade and kissed it. “Soon …. my baby.” She folded it up again and placed it in the back waistband of her leather pants. He reappeared with a bottle in his grip and got back into the car and soon they were back on the road. The park came into view on their right and he turned the car and made his way down a well-lit driveway. People sat on benches on all sides, and Rhiannon carefully kept her face from being seen by any of them. He drove into the heart of the park where there were fewer and fewer
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people sitting around. Finally they arrived at an abandoned little niche and he stopped. He uncorked the bottle of The Chardonnay and offered it to her. “You first.” She spoke gently. “I want to taste it on your lips.” He regarded her in surprise for a moment, and then took a sip of the wine. He leaned over and they kissed for a moment. She took his lower lip between her teeth and nipped him playfully, the predator playing with her prey like a cat with a rodent. “We need more room,” He stated huskily “Lets get out.” He walked around and opened her door for her. Getting out, she breathed in her beloved night air. The darkness always made her feel more alive. She stepped to a light post and hooked one leg around it, twirling seductively. He watched, intrigued by her. He took a larger drink of the wine and walked over to her, capturing her roughly in his arms. She nipped his earlobe and he winced. “So you like to play rough?” He whispered in her ear. She looked into his eyes “Oh, definitely…”

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She reached back into her waistband and flipped the blade open, bringing it up to his lower back; she sliced into his kidney. He screamed and pulled back from her. She deftly switched the blade around in her grip and slashed it across his abdomen. He screamed again. “Too bad I have to mess up that expensive Italian suit,” she spoke quietly as she swept his legs from under him. He fell into the grass and tried to crawl away from her. “But like I said… I like to play rough.” She strode forward and, yanking his head back, sliced the serrated edge across his throat. He began to gag on his own blood as Rhiannon rolled him over. She removed his wallet from inside his coat and placed one shapely, heeled boot on his forehead, pushing him down into the grass. “Jackpot” She whispered as she counted several hundreddollar bills from inside the leather billfold. A homeless man stared in disbelief from a short distance away at the scene he had just witnessed. He had expected to see the couple at least make it past the kissing part, but instead he had witnessed a brutal slaughter. He had
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read the newspapers, and he knew that this was the serial killer that had been making headlines. He decided he was safest if he just stayed silent for now and kept low. Sprinkler heads popped up from the grass and began to spray, washing the blood from her fresh kill. Rhiannon rinsed the blood from her hands and arms, then her blade. She kicked the overturned bottle of chardonnay into the bushes and walked away from her prey, not bothering to taste the warm blood that soaked into the grass around him. Vincent had been following her, but he lost her when she had gotten into the car with the man in the suit. He had only let her see him for a moment inside the bar where she worked, then had to make himself invisible again. He did not want to attract the dark beauty’s attention again until he could be sure that they would be alone. He found it unusual that she was alone again, on foot after having gotten into the man’s car. He decided to follow her again, find out where she lived and then make his move. He knew that the council would disapprove of his actions, especially Serene, but he was enchanted by this woman.

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He watched as she entered an apartment complex and unlocked a mailbox, withdrawing several letters. She then walked into one of the apartments and closed the door. Rhiannon decided to sleep for once this night, having already made her kill and wanted to relax a bit before going to bed. She stripped off her tight clothing and slipped into a short satin robe. She turned on the television and surfed around until she found some news. A wild-eyed homeless man was describing the details of her latest kill and Rhiannon leaned forward. She had not known that she had been observed.

Thankfully the homeless man didn’t see her clearly enough to tell anyone what she looked like, and he appeared drunk besides. She breathed a sigh of relief and sank back on her sofa. Rhiannon decided to turn in for the night. She opened her bedroom widow a crack to let in some night air and slipped under a sheet. The night was too warm to cover up entirely. Just as she was falling asleep, a blue mist flowed through the opening in the window. She felt a cool presence so she rolled over and sleepily peered into the darkness.

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The luminescent mist took the form of a man and she realized it was the same man from the bar. He was tall with long blonde hair and glowing blue eyes. Rhiannon began to wonder if she was awake or dreaming. He held her in thrall for a moment, his gleaming eyes filling her with desire. She realized that she was not dreaming. She also knew that this man was not any ordinary man. He smiled, sensing her thoughts, showing long, curved canines. She suddenly knew what he was, and even more, wanted to become what he was. The sun rose and Rhiannon awakened to the sound of a knocking on her door. The tall man was gone. She tried to rise from her bed, but a terrible weakness encompassed her and she fell back, not knowing what could be wrong. The time she had spent with the blonde man was a blur in her memory. The knocking became louder and she tried to rise again. She got her feet to the floor and fell onto her stomach, the weakness taking her again. The door was kicked in by one of the stronger policemen and officers swarmed into her home. The lawmen discovered

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her lying upon the floor in her bedroom, wearing nothing more than an untied short satin robe. Dried blood surrounded her mouth. She was hefted to her feet and her robe was tied for her. The officers dragged her to the street in handcuffs and carefully loaded her into the back seat of a squad car. Rhiannon slipped back to consciousness for a moment, the sunlight that came through the squad car window sent pain through her eyes like a thousand needles peircing her brain. She curled up into a fetal position and buried her face in the seat, ignoring the pain of the handcuffs that cut into her flesh. Finally, she passed out, bathed in the now-unwelcome rays of the sun. Her apartment was searched and several of her victim’s billfolds were taken and bagged as evidence. The bed was soaked with blood, so they removed the sheets and bagged them also. Rhiannon was almost comatose when they tossed her into a small cell in the Santa Ana county jail. Coroners’ reports were gone through and the evidence was studied. Curiously enough, much of the blood staining the sheets were Rhiannon’s own and some from an unidentified person.

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The blood was carefully washed from around her mouth as she lay unconscious on the meager cot that was the only furniture in her cell save for a toilet and sink. This blood was identified as the same as some that was on the sheets, but it did not match any of the blood types of the victims that were in the city morgue. Rhiannon awakened from a very deep sleep to find herself in the jail cell. A single guard sat outside the cell, eying her from time to time as he read a newspaper. She was hungry, desperately so, but she knew that her hunger could not be suppressed by any food. She had to have blood. She could smell the guard and wanted to take him. He eyed her again, noticing that she was awake. The clothing that she had been changed into did little to hide her voluptuous but athletic body. She felt the need for sustenance grow stronger and she unknowingly called to him. He stared at her for a few seconds, and then, as if he had no will of his own, he stood and unlocked the cell door, stepping inside.

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Rhiannon took the guard easily, ripping out the side of his neck and drinking until his heart stopped beating, but it was not enough. She needed more. She laid the inert body of the guard on the shabby cot she had recently occupied and slipped out the open gate of the cell. He hadn’t even had the chance to scream before she had ripped his throat out with her new teeth. Insane hunger filled her, but she kept her composure for the time being. The scent of the female in the office at the end of the hall assaulted her nostrils like the sweetest scent of life-giving nourishment she had ever smelled. She crept down the long hallway, careful not to alert her prey. As she neared the doorway, she could hear the dispatcher talking to an officer on the radio and she impatiently waited for her to finish. The scent was overpowering now and the emptiness grew inside, becoming almost unbearable. The dispatcher moved from the radio and crossed the office back to her desk, preparing paperwork for the prisoner to be moved to the maximum-security prison the next day. She had been studying the photographs and the arresting officer’s

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accounts of the capture of one of the most frightening female killers she had ever seen. Being in the same building with the woman made her skin crawl, and she looked forward to going home at the shift change. A small growl escaped Rhiannon’s control and the woman briefly looked her way. She rose and walked to the door, grabbing a flashlight. Rhiannon stood flat against the wall as the dispatcher shined the beam through the small window down the hall. Not seeing the guard in his usual position outside the cellblock, the woman pushed a button and slowly swung the door open. Rhiannon attacked before the woman saw her, sinking her teeth into the woman’s throat, ripping out the larynx and left jugular vein. Unable to scream, the prey fought her, growing weaker as Rhiannon drank. A man’s voice over the radio distracted her and she quickly snapped the dying woman’s neck. Tossing the body aside, she left the building and turned down the street, feeling alive in the nighttime air. She left the busy streets, hunting for more prey, the hunger still unsatisfied. The sound and scent of life came from all around her now, and Rhiannon was not fully sated.

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People walked in groups and stood against the buildings. Rhiannon felt drunk on the perfume of living blood, but she had to find a quieter, more secluded place to isolate another victim. A man stared at her and she realized that she was still dressed in the issued clothing from the jail, and what was worse, her face had been televised all over the country on the news. She had to get a change of clothing and disguise herself. She quickly walked down an alley, searching for a less populated area with some homes. After a while she finally arrived at some empty streets, a middle class neighborhood. A dog barked from a yard to her right and she crossed the street to avoid it. Most of the homes were dark, but she heard faint music, and followed the sound. The sound came from a house set back from the street by a wide expanse of grass. Cars were parked everywhere, lining the streets and parked askew in the lawn. Two teenage boys sat in wrought iron benches on the large porch, their attention turned to the picture window in the front of the house. As she approached, Rhiannon could hear them talking in hushed voices about the party going on inside. The scent

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came to her again, and she realized that she enjoyed the fragrance of the males more than the females. She shed the shirt she was issued and approached them, her naked breasts gleaming in the moonlight.

They turned their attention upon her now and she could smell their instant arousal. She mentally called to them and they rose from the benches like sleepwalkers. The young males soon stood before her, and she drew them into the trees to the left of the house. She had never felt so much power. Drunk on the scent of the males, she traced the vein in one’s neck with a fingertip and he removed his shirt for her. She embraced him, and as the other watched, she sank her teeth into his jugular. He winced momentarily, and then sank to his knees. She followed him down, still drinking. As she drank, she could hear his heart beating, this insistent drumming excited her and she released him, removing the rest of her clothing. The hands of the other boy caressed her body as she removed his jeans.

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She scented along his thigh and bit where she could smell the blood clearly. It gushed into her mouth and she drank deeply, filling the emptiness inside her with the nourishment she needed. Slowly, the heartbeat stopped. It was time to take the other. She removed the shirt of the second boy and raised his arm, biting into the soft flesh of its underside. This time, she let the holes bleed into her hand, not knowing what she was doing or why. As her hand filled, she smeared the blood over her breasts and was surprised by an intense, pleasurable tingling sensation. She bit into his neck and filled her hands with more, rubbing it over her body, writhing in pure pleasure. He sank to the ground, unconscious from loss of blood. As the blood dried and the sensations faded, Rhiannon became aware of her nakedness. She found a garden faucet and rinsed the caked blood from her body. This done, she put on one boy’s jeans and shoes and the other’s shirt. A girl stepped out onto the porch, looking for her date. Calling his name timidly, aware of the fact that she had been

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ignoring him for most of the evening, she walked down the steps and stood on the lawn, peering into the darkness. A moan attracted her attention and she crossed the lawn to the trees alongside the house. Her screams alerted the

other teens inside the house and soon the area was being searched by officers. Rhiannon, however, was nowhere to be found.

News of the new vampire reached the council. It was known that she would have to be brought in and given the usual guidelines. Serene had a feeling that this one would be trouble. She also felt that one of her council was to blame for the indiscretion, but she could not single him out yet. She may have to eliminate the girl, but she had to learn more about her. Keokuk and Drake were two of her finest

assassins, and they worked well together. In her private chambers, Serene waved her hand in the air and a window appeared in mid-air. She watched for a moment as the

landscape inside it sped by and suddenly zoomed in on her assassin’s quarry. The girl was darkly beautiful, but she

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could see insanity in her eyes. Serene searched through the girl’s mind and read of the many killings she had made even before she was reborn. Serene called the council together and they gathered in the great hall of the assassins. She searched the minds of each one of them as they entered the chamber and was blocked out by only one of them, Vincent. He was hiding something. Serene decided to keep watch over him. She addressed them with her usual powerful voice. “We have a new rebirth.” This was nothing new to the other council members as new rebirths did occur commonly. “This one must be brought before me and she must be taught the ways of the veiling. If she is not brought to understanding, she will cause us great trouble. ”Serene was silent for a moment, waiting for reaction. No one spoke. “I see by your thoughts that I am understood.” She motioned to Clive and he rose from his seat. “Bring me Keokuk and Drake.”

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The ominous-looking Master of assassins left the chamber, but soon reappeared with an unlikely looking pair of vampires. Keokuk was a dark, broad-shouldered one with nearly black eyes and even blacker hair to his waist. Drake was a tall, thin studious looking vampire with an icy stare. “Bring the one named Rhiannon to me. harmed.” The same window appeared in mid-air and they gazed upon a youthful girl dressed in a black shirt and blood stained blue jeans. Keokuk and Drake studied her intently for a time, then the window disappeared. She is not to be

“She is located just south of the outskirts of Santa Ana. Bring her to me.” The two assassins quietly stepped from the chamber and the Council was convened. Vincent was unhappy with Serene’s decision to send the assassins Keokuk and Drake. He knew that they would be rough and without mercy. Rhiannon’s memory still lagged in his mind. Part of him wished he had

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killed her, while another voice told him he could never have done so. He decided to bide his time until she was caught and brought in before the council. Then and only then would he make his move. He was trying to block out Serene’s highpowered mind scope that she used frequently to control the council, but it was getting harder and harder to do so. He knew she would break through soon enough and he would be punished for taking Rhiannon. He did not know how to explain that he did not know that she was a notorious serial killer until it was too late. She was a danger before, but now she could very well bring on the end to the veiling. The press had already covered her escape and the killings she had made so far. The more questionable magazines had even begun to speculate that she was some kind of cultist or vampire. If people began to believe the trash-mags there could be considerable trouble. Night was falling and Vincent hadn’t slept all day. He decided to go out to feed and clear his head. Keokuk and Drake had no trouble finding her. They simply used the window spell to get her exact location. The

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red Ford GTO was already outfitted with shackles to detain her in the back seat. Rhiannon silently slipped through the shadows, aware of the blood stained jeans she was wearing. She was hungry again. She had left Santa Ana with haste after her initial bloodlust. It seemed that the police were everywhere. She had a hard time finding places to sleep when the terrible weakness took her by day. The roar of an engine caught her attention and she hid behind some trees that lined a canal. Two dangerous looking men got out of a red GTO and silently scanned the area as if they were looking for someone. “These aren’t good prey.” She thought. There was something different about these two, something she had only seen before with the tall blonde vampire that had taken her. She suddenly realized that these were vampires. Drake scented the air and stepped carefully toward the trees, his hand automatically reaching for the stun gun at his belt. Keokuk followed him. The girl, sighting them coming

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closer broke and ran from the cover of the trees. Drake was on her in a flash and pressed the electrodes of his weapon to her back. She fought him valiantly, twisting in his grip and striking him across the jaw. Keokuk grasped her arms and forced them behind her while Drake used the stun gun again, this time directly into her temple. She relaxed in his grip and was carried to the car. They shackled her arms and legs in the back seat.

Keokuk and Drake dragged the seemingly comatose girl into the chamber of the high council in chains. To anyone that didn’t know of her capabilities, the security measures would have seemed ridiculous, but after all that had transpired over the last few weeks, Rhiannon was not to be underestimated. Serene strode to a short distance away and studied the ragged looking girl that lay upon the cold stones of the temple. “Do you know the consequences of your actions?”

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Rhiannon lifter her head and regarded the ancient woman blankly, then a nefarious smile covered her

expression and she laughed. “Do you really think I care?” “Minx! Come here!” Serene snapped temporarily losing her accustomed composure. The black robed sorceress hurried to stand beside her elder. “Burn this impudent trash.” Serene ordered and returned to her seat to watch. Minx extended a single finger, lighting shot from the tip and encompassed Rhiannon with blue plasma flame. Rhiannon screamed in agony, but remained unharmed. This continued for several seconds. Minx rested her power for a moment and Serene repeated the question. This time Rhiannon silently regarded her through narrowed eyes. “We have toiled for centuries to make the humans believe that we do not exist. We are now a fairy tale, a campfire story. We are fiction. This is the way we have been able to survive and grow in number through the past century. We were once hunted like animals, driven from comfort and

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secrecy by frightened prey. We established rules to insure that the prey does not know we exist. You have broken every one of those rules. You have been brought before us to plead for your life. You now have the chance to do so.” Rhiannon dragged herself to her feet and weakly lifted her head, coldly regarding the regal Council. The smile returned. “I have never cared for rules, and I do what I like. My life does not matter to me. Kill me if you want.” Serene nodded “And so we shall.” She motioned to the hooded figure that sat at the strategy table before her. Vincent rose from the strategy table and motioned to Keokuk and Drake, who dragged Rhiannon from the chamber.

Vincent was one of the most ancient Vampires in the world, his loyalty to the great veiling had been unwavering until just recently. Now he had his secrets, something that was expressly forbidden to Council members. He had been attracted to the dark beauty of Rhiannon. He had wanted her. A few weeks earlier, he had followed her in feline form, waited for his chance, and then took her. One law of the

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Council was that vampires could have no sexual contact with each other, but something about Rhiannon enchanted him beyond any female he had ever encountered. She had

fought him at first, but warmed to his advances when she saw what he was. She had the dark desire to become like him, and they had spent an exhilarating night together. He fed from her neck as he loved her, and then gave her his own blood. They experienced each other as she weakened, then grew strong again as her new abilities took possession of her. He did not know of her serial killings until she had been arrested. This mysterious dark angel was a predator like himself and he hadn’t been able to read and know her. This increased the attraction tenfold. It took every last bit of willpower he had to endure watching the trial and torture of Rhiannon by the Council. He made up his mind to set her free and leave the Council. Vincent followed Keokuk and Drake as they dragged Rhiannon into a small room. He silently chose to take out Drake first, then Keokuk. He was more ancient than they

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were by at least a century, which made him more powerful both magically and in strength. Keokuk forced her to her knees in the center of the room. He drew a silver broadsword from its sheath. Rhiannon barely raised her head, all of her energy drained by Minx’s assault. Vincent strode up behind Drake and struck him in the back of the head, his hand flaring with blue electricity not unlike Minx’s. Drake sank to the floor, gripping his head and Vincent struck him again in the base of his skull. Drake lay unconscious upon the floor in seconds. Keokuk turned his attention from Rhiannon and Vincent muttered an

incantation. A wall of flame appeared, forcing Keokuk away from the girl and into a corner. Vincent carried Rhiannon from the room, through a doorway and into a sunlit street. The sun weakened him, but only momentarily. Rhiannon passed out completely. Vincent waved a hand in the air and the two of them shimmered for a moment, and then vanished

completely from view.

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The Shadow of Rhiannon Chapter Two

Rhiannon awakened to find herself lying on a cold, stone floor. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness and she spotted Vincent sitting against the far wall. He had been

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awake all day, watching over her as she slept. She was slightly mistrustful of him now, knowing what he had done to her, but she liked what she had become. Vincent noted her wakefulness and rose from the position he had held all day. He approached her, but she pulled back away from him. This confused him for a moment, but he reached out and caught her arm. “Are you hungry?” Rhiannon considered the question, and then slowly nodded. “Do you want to hunt?” Rhiannon nodded again. Vincent shoved open the door and she realized that they were in a crypt. He stood by the door, obviously being chivalrous. Rhiannon slipped through, still avoiding his intense gaze. Over the past few weeks she had been more fascinated by the beauty of the darkness than she had been as a mortal. The cool air refreshed her, and she felt strength returning to her body. She scented the air, but only found the scent of decay and the light fragrance of dying flowers. Vincent strode to stand by her side.

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“There is a small town nearby. there.”

We will find fresh blood

Rhiannon still felt attracted to the handsome blonde vampire, but it was her nature to be alone. She had always felt discomfort around other people. . She decided to leave him when the time was right. The town was not far away, and the living scent grew stronger. She began to quicken her pace, Vincent, sensing her discomfort with his presence, decided to shape shift. Rhiannon glanced back just in time to see him perform a short series of gestures, the air shimmered around him and he crouched low to the ground. Soon a white wolf stood in his place. Amazed, but not fazed, Rhiannon turned back to her objective, to feed. A pair of girls passed Rhiannon, but she had no interest in them. She wanted males. A scent of a male assaulted her senses. She followed the fragrance. Soon, she arrived at a small green house. There were others inside besides the male she wanted. She crossed the lawn and slipped around the corner. A window was ajar; the scent flowed from this window. She peered

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inside and could make out the figure of a tall young male sleeping on a bed in the center of the room. A stereo was playing at a low volume. There was a desk shoved up to the window. She slid the window open and climbed inside. The desk was sturdy and made no noise as she slid across it and climbed onto the bed. He was a deep sleeper, shifting slowly onto his back but not awakening. Rhiannon met his lips with her own briefly. He still did not awaken. She rolled his head to the side, exposing his neck for her kiss. He moaned softly and opened his eyes. He turned his head to meet her gaze and she held him in thrall like a deer in the headlights of a semi truck. “You will feel no pain.” She whispered and he closed his eyes. She rolled his head to the side again. Her teeth extended and she sank them into his right jugular, her eyes glowing blue in the darkness. Blood poured into her mouth and she drank until the insistent drumming of his heart stopped. Vincent quietly followed Rhiannon to the green house, hoping she would not rouse the occupants. He sat and waited for her to return patiently. He had much to teach her. After a

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while she reappeared, a duffel bag hanging from her arm. She had stolen clothing. It was understood. She needed a change of clothes. She crouched before him. “How can you do that?” Vincent understood that she meant his shape shifting ability. The air shimmered around him and he rose, his cloak surrounding him once more. “I can show you if you will just trust me.” Vincent sat with Rhiannon in a derelict building, performing the gestures but not using the power behind them. He explained the gestures and sometimes was able to catch her hands and shape them to the correct positions. She was silent, dutifully copying his movements. They were complex, but Rhiannon was a fast learner. After showing her three different animals, the Wolf, the Crow, and the Cat, Vincent explained the power that came from within to make the changes occur. It was time to wake up Colby for school, his mother, still in her housecoat and slippers sleepily padded down the hall. His stereo was still playing. She had told him to turn it off

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before he went to sleep, but never had pushed the matter too far. The music helped him to sleep. At least he wasn’t sneaking out anymore. She turned the knob, but his door was still hooked closed. She knocked loudly telling him in her sternest voice to get up or he would be late for class. Getting no response, she walked back to her bedroom and, taking a clothing hanger from her closet. She quickly unwrapped it and straightened it out to make a tool to unhook his door. She returned and opened the door as far as she could and slid the coat hanger up until she was able to disengage the hook. She slowly opened the door and was suddenly aghast. Her son lay upon his bed, slightly covered with a sheet. In any other instance, he would have appeared to be asleep, but blood soaked the bed next to his neck. He was facing away from her and she could distinctly see two large holes in his neck. She choked silently, the scream rising in her throat, but no sound could escape her lips. She stumbled back down the hallway and into her living room. She collapsed onto her sofa and knocked the phone to the floor. Grasping it, she dialed 911.

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Rhiannon and Vincent slept. She had crawled a distance away from him after the sun rose, but he had crept up behind her and lying down, pulled her close to him. Their sleep was a dangerous one, but forced. The police were canvassing the area looking for her. They barely considered that she would be hiding somewhere, but they did not take into account that she was a vampire and needed to sleep by day. Such things were not believed yet. They scoured the streets and the wooded areas. Some deserted houses were searched but it was highly unlikely to them that she would be there. They believed that she would be on the move, running from the location of her kill. The highway patrol was called into action, and officers trying to identify her stopped cars. They awakened at dusk, and though Rhiannon was slightly perturbed by Vincent’s closeness, she accepted it, sensing his feelings for her. He was different from other men. Besides not being human, he was very gentle and seemed to only want to protect her. Her own powers were growing noticeably every time she awakened and she could read his

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thoughts now. He did not block them from her. On the contrary, he seemed to wish to communicate with her mentally rather than vocally. They needed to get away from this town before they made any more kills. He reminded her of the gestures necessary to shape shift and they became large crows. Taking flight was a new experience for Rhiannon, but she soon learned to take advantage of the wind. Rhiannon and Vincent flew closely together, but Rhiannon could not help but play with her new ability like a fresh toy, she rolled to one side and plunged toward the ground, then caught an updraft and rose back to Vincent's side. He was slightly alarmed by her actions, but amused that she was enjoying her new experience. Vincent’s betrayal was almost a shattering blow to the council. Serene’s anger was immense. Keokuk and Drake were not punished for their failure as she knew that Vincent was a century older than they were and infinitely more powerful. Drake was injured by dark burns on the back of his head and neck, but he would heal quickly. Serene dispatched the two fallen assassins and a number of their lessers to

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destroy what she believed was to become a threat to the veiling and their very existence. Vincent and Rhiannon had to be stopped. The assassins gathered weaponry of all sorts from the armory. Keokuk and Drake were more than happy to undergo such an assignment. Their anger toward their treasonous elder and his self-appointed charge was intense. This time it was made clear to them to kill, not capture. They would not have it any other way now. Rhiannon and Vincent arrived at the town of Brawley and turned toward the Salton Sea. From the air they could see a small group of teenagers on the shore, a bonfire was lit and they sat around it, it was obviously a party. Rhiannon and Vincent found a nearby derelict house and, regaining their human form, entered it to watch the teens from an obscure distance. A male and a female left the group to walk along the shore. It was time to strike. Vincent and Rhiannon cloaked themselves with the shield of invisibility that Vincent had taught her and they left the house. As they drew closer to the teenagers that had left the group, Vincent sensed the presence of another vampire in the

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vicinity. He guessed that there was an assassin from the council nearby. Rhiannon was unaware of the presence, her hunger blocking out the perception. The two teens decided that they were far enough from their friends and began to make out. The male drew the female close and ran his hands over her body as they kissed, locked in a tight embrace. Rhiannon realized that Vincent was no longer by her side. He was odd to her, like a guardian, but he seemed to have his own agenda. This did little to distract her from the task at hand. Rhiannon was beside the teenagers now, ready to strike. With surprising strength she grasped the female's neck and broke it quickly before she could scream. Rhiannon then leapt upon the male, sinking her teeth into his throat and ripping it outward in a spray of blood. Uncloaking herself, she bit again, this time biting into his jugular and drinking as he fought her. He tried to raise his arm to protect himself, but Rhiannon was quicker. She pressed both of his arms into the sand, drinking from the grievous wound. He finally relaxed, his face frozen into an expression of shock, eyes staring up

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into the night sky. His heart stopped beating and Rhiannon turned to the girl. She checked her wrist for a pulse, and found that her heart was still beating, but weakly. Paralyzed from her broken neck, the girl was unable to fight. Rhiannon then fed from the girl until she was dead, tears still flowing from her eyes.

Vincent kept his cloaking spell active and followed the scent of the other vampire he had detected. Atop a small hill, a vampire that he recognized as one of the lesser assassins had Rhiannon in the sights of a rifle. He had to act quickly. Vincent grasped the rifle and wrenched it from the assassin’s grasp, slamming the butt of it into his skull. This did little to phase the lesser vampire and he rose, peering into the darkness. Vincent uncloaked and struck him again, this time the blow shattered his cranium and he fell, reducing to a smoking skeleton in seconds. The other teenagers sat around the bonfire, still drinking schnapps and wine coolers, unaware of what had happened to their friends. Vincent cloaked himself again and

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approached them. He mentally called Rhiannon to his side and she cloaked as well. These kids had to be eliminated. They attacked the group, breaking necks and feeding before the teens even knew what was transpiring. One broke away at a run and Vincent followed, sweeping his legs from beneath him and slamming his fist into the boy's rib cage, breaking several ribs. He bit into the teens underarm and drank his fill. Keokuk and Drake traveled together, as always. Drake's burns had healed quickly. The GTO rumbled through Brawley. Police cars were everywhere, no doubt looking for the same quarry as the two assassins. Keokuk and Drake had watched Rhiannon and Vincent in their most recent kills through the viewing window spell. The beautiful Minx had stayed behind with Serene and the council, but she was keeping a mental link with all the assassins, aiding them when she could. Sheriff Gerald Winston took in the gruesome scene at the shore of the Salton Sea. His son had sneaked out to attend this party. Grief-stricken, he leaned against a dead tree. He knew who had done this, it was the escaped serial

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killer Rhiannon, but she could not have possibly done all of this alone. A few of the bodies were drained of all blood, leaving white skinned, nearly skeletal corpses. There were signs of quite a fight and some strange blackened human bones nearby. News Reporters were being kept at bay, and the officers were not giving out any of the names of the victims at this time until the parents were contacted. There was very little blood upon the sand. The sight of the corpses was sickening. They looked like fleshy skeletons, their throats ripped open as if an animal had attacked them. The insects had already found them, crawling over their whitened skin. One boy was still alive, but very weak from loss of blood. He was loaded into an ambulance and taken away, the siren blaring. Body bags were brought to the scene and one by one, the corpses were taken away on stretchers. There was no need for sirens on those ambulances because the occupants were already dead. Falling to his knees near the site, Gerald Winston wept, but inside he had already decided to capture and even kill Rhiannon for what she had done to his son.

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Danny was sick until dusk finally fell. He had been having blood transfusions all day. Any food that he had tried to eat came back up almost immediately. The hunger slowly possessed him, but he was attempting to control it. The nurse came in with a small cup of green jello and rolled the bed-table over the top of him. "Try to keep this down, honey." Suddenly the hunger surged through him like a lightning bolt. Danny sprang from the bed, knocking the table over, He grabbed a handful of the nurse's hair and sank his teeth into the side of her neck. Blood spurted in a thick stream, soaking his pajamas and coating the side of his face, running into his eye. Disregarding the temporary stinging blindness, he threw her aside, still alive and weeping from the pain of her lacerated neck. He yanked the I.V. from his arm and sped out of his room, insanity in his eyes. His fingernails extended and he slashed at the nearest person, who turned out to be another patient. She fell away from him, screaming in pain. Hospital Guards rushed forward to subdue him, but to no avail. One guard pressed a stun gun to his side, but it had no

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effect on the boy. The guard's arm was ripped from it's socket, like a wing from a fly. The scent of the blood gushing from the hole drove the boy instantly mad and he pressed his face into the gaping hole as the guard screamed, then fainted dead away. Vincent and Rhiannon decided to split up. Vincent knew that the assassins would have more trouble finding Rhiannon than they would himself. They knew his mind and he left a significant psychic trail, as opposed to Rhiannon, whom they did not know and her powers not being fully developed, did not leave a specific signal to be followed. Besides all that, he knew that Rhiannon blamed him for her capture, both by the police and by the council. Her life had changed dramatically due to his desire for her, and she was not very open to his further advances. He was not required to feed her his own blood in their time together, but to fully realize the power of being a true vampire, she was to ingest some of his blood. A vampire is easy to create, a simple bite to the neck and drainage of a certain amount of blood from the body could turn anyone into a vampire, but not a powerful one. To

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completely rip the throat out would insure that the body would not reanimate. Vincent transformed and turned his flight to Nevada. Rhiannon, reading his intentions, changed her direction to the East. Day flights were difficult, but as long as they transformed themselves before dawn it was possible.

Sunlight, though it drained their resources and diminished their strength, did not burn them as was fabled in the movies or books created by the misguided entertainers of the world. Two brothers, Mike and Randall Schmidt were known disobeyers of the council’s rules. From the news of Rhiannon that was televised nationwide, they decided to join the hunt and bring her to the council, which they believed would be grateful enough for their deeds to forgive them their own transgressions. As all vampires had a telepathic link to each other, they knew that Rhiannon had been brought to the council before and had escaped with one of the ruling members. He was to be brought in also. They did not have the transformational powers of the council members yet, but hoped that they would be trained and taught once they

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brought in the two fugitives. As assassins of the council they knew that they would have unlimited power, something that they both greatly desired. As night fell, they left their sanctuary and mounted their motorcycles, somehow knowing where to find Vincent, but not Rhiannon. Much to the Council’s dismay, Rhiannon continued to kill without discretion or selection. So great was her anger that her kills were barely recognizable when she finished them off. The press, who had been on top of the entire spree from the time she had broken out of the holding cell at the Santa Ana County Jail, went wild with the coverage and documentation of her murderous rampage. The stories went nationwide, then, eventually worldwide as people began to realize that Rhiannon was a vampire. Disbelief diminished and she

became an urban legend, the fire of her image constantly fuelled by the press. Suspicion against the cult like Goth and Pseudo Vampiric societies grew at an intense rate, and a few killings of real vampires confirmed what had been but a myth for over a century. The vampires died in a manner that

terrified their killers and the word spread that these

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creatures were pure evil based on it.

No one realized the

consequences of the upset of the balance that had been carefully orchestrated by the Council until it was far too late. The paranoia reached down into the lives of every man, woman, and child in the United States. Fear and persecution ran rampant in the schoolyards, streets and homes

everywhere. Still, the press wouldn’t stop their coverage of the Rhiannon saga. The American churches, having not been able to rise to power since the witch trials, took immediate advantage of the situation. People who had never said a

prayer or had been baptized in their lives crowded the hallowed halls of the holy houses. Mass baptismal took place in every body of water. Tel-Evangelists took control of the

television stations, preaching their own ideas of how the situation should be handled. A staggering amount of people began to be killed by violent mobs based on their

appearance or heresy about their lifestyles. The beginning of the end was at hand. America watched as the networks televised execution after execution of vampires. One method of interrogation of

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the reborn taken prisoner was to repeatedly cut the wrists, underarms, and throats of the prisoners, slowly draining the blood from their bodies before the cuts sealed over. It was found that the only way to truly kill the vampires was to destroy the heart or brain. Experiments were performed daily to find the weaknesses of the undead. They did feel pain, but not in the same way that an ordinary human did, the bearable threshold being much higher. Holy water and

crosses had no effect, but the classic silver and wooden stakes driven into the heart or temple was fatal. The

frightened humans gathered in their houses of worship, pleading to God for protection and guidance. Paranoia ran high in the cities and towns, and the executions increased in number as well. The media was not entirely to blame for the chaos that now reigned in the United States, but their ignorance and greed for ratings played a key role from the start. Freedom of

speech in the form of massive media frenzy over the Rhiannon killing spree was what brought the existence of

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Vampires to realization for the humans whom had been long blinded by the great veiling.

Rhiannon came across something that interested her in Salt Lake City, Utah. She noticed a small group of young adults that seemed to want to be like her. She decided to stay here for a while. They wore almost white face makeup and dental prosthetics, not caring what anyone thought of them. She singled out the oldest of the group and decided to follow him. His name was Shane, and he looked a great deal like Vincent. She followed him as he walked around, apparently looking for a job. The sunlight weakened her, but she was now set on an objective. These teens were obsessed with the news about her killings. She decided to play Vincent’s game, appearing only briefly to the young man, then vanishing from his sight. She sensed that he recognized her. Forgetting his job hunt as the sun sank low in the horizon, he led her to his home. He knew what she wanted and wanted her too. She decided not to kill this one.

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His rebirth was a powerful one. Rhiannon sat with him while he lay sleeping through the next day, his sheets stained with both of their blood. As darkness finally approached again he rose from his bed and Rhiannon took him out to the street. She maintained a mental block on him, trying to keep his hunger under control until the time was right. They walked for hours until they finally found quarry. Two girls walked alone from a mini mall, bags in hand, talking animatedly. Rhiannon and Shane followed them until they eventually sat down at a bus stop on a deserted street. Rhiannon cloaked herself, mentally releasing him and watching as Shane sat down with them. He spoke to them briefly and left the bus stop with one in tow. The other girl waved to her friend and fell asleep on the bench. Rhiannon watched her while Shane took the other, feeding until her heart stopped. He returned for the second and carried her to join her friend. Rhiannon observed with a small smile of satisfaction. He had already mastered mind control. He returned to her and Rhiannon removed his blood stained shirt. It was time to meet his friends. Shane’s friends were waiting in line to

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get into the Goth club when they spotted Shane and the tall woman. She was familiar to them. There was something distinctively different about Shane. He seemed stronger, more alive. As they drew near the line they recognized the dark woman, it was Rhiannon herself. They had been following her media for weeks. They didn’t know whether to be afraid of her or welcome her. They approached them, Rhiannon hanging back, seemingly unwilling to make initial contact with them. Shane took Todd aside and whispered something in his ear. Todd stepped back away from him, a dazed look in his eyes. “Come on,” Shane told his friends “We have something to discuss.” Lauren and her sister Crystal walked side by side. This was an enigma. Here was the woman that was being portrayed on the news as a monster leading them somewhere, but they felt no fear of her. Rather, they were curious and wanted to get to know her better. She was powerful, they could all sense that. The stories that she was a real vampire ran through their minds. Before they had heard about her, they

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were only Goths, but the possibility that vampires were real intrigued them to the point of wanting to be there, to be the same. Now it seemed they had that chance. Lauren and Crystal spoke quietly together about her. The two of them discussed their lack of fear and their unknowing of what was going to happen next. Shane hung close by the woman’s side, it was obvious that they had been intimate, and Crystal felt a small surge of jealousy. Todd was her boyfriend, and she hoped that he was not attracted to her in the same way. They approached a run-down older house with boards across the windows. Rhiannon, in a blur of movement, kicked open the barred door, and, though surprised by the action, they followed her inside. The next few days were events that would hang in their memories forever. Rhiannon did nothing to try to steal Todd away from Crystal, but she did transform him as she had transformed Shane. She seemed hesitant about feeding on the females in their group, but she transformed them too. Crystal never felt such hunger as she did the night of her rebirth. Going to school was the most difficult to her. She had to wear black

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clothing and sunglasses to protect her skin and eyes from the sun. It was unbearably hot even though everyone else was chilled by the early spring temperatures. Others stared at her as though she was suddenly alien to them. She knew what was going on with the media and the churches and she feared being implicated along with her sister and friends. Marilee and Jason had made sure to be together when Rhiannon transformed them, each being protective of their sibling. Lauren, being the strongest female in their circle was confident that she could handle the transformation alone. Crystal insisted on being with Todd, even though she knew that Rhiannon was primarily attracted to Shane. All in all, their transformations were uneventful, except for the fact that they were nearly insane with hunger when they awakened the next dusk. They decided to call themselves “The Crows”.

Vincent was unsuccessful in drawing the assassins away from Rhiannon. They obviously perceived her as more of a threat than he was. He decided to find her again. His bond

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with her mind told him that she had recently created rebirths. This troubled him. Vincent knew that the new ones would be brought in for questioning and training. Would they betray her to the council? That was yet to be seen. “You want to what!!!” The Sheriff angrily retorted. “If you leave this precinct on a wild goose chase you will lose your badge.” Gerald Wilson had been a good deputy for years, and was up for promotion to corporal, but none of this mattered now. Gerald wanted Rhiannon dead. He couldn’t erase the image of his blood-drained son lying upon the sand of the beach of the Salton sea. Gerald took off his badge and layed it upon the captains desk, then he did the same with his gun. He unholstered three clips of bullets and put them down also. Randy and Mike arrived at the temple of Lilith after two nights of hard riding. They knew they would not be received with open arms, their transgressions would make this difficult. The two were nearly twins, though Randy was younger by a year. A half moon hung overhead as the two rang the bell by the doors. After a time one of them opened

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slightly and an acolyte peered at them. No words were said as he searched their minds, then let them in. Serene herself had foreseen their arrival and did not bother to greet them herself. Instead, Clive, the master of arms led them to the assassins chamber. “So you wish to atone for your crimes by retrieving Rhiannon?” Slightly taken aback by the question and the fact that they were so easily read, the two agreed silently. The master of arms began to lay out a number of weapons from the walls and a few locked cases that stood about the room. “Only take what you need.” Randy strapped a pancake holster and a 9mm Ruger. Taking several matching clips he snapped on their holders and slid them in. He also took a shoulder harness with a large knife and slipped back into his long, black leather duster. Mike took a long samurai sword and strapped it to his back.. He also took Glock Semi-Automatic. Ammunition for both guns was given to them in a leather bag. “We already have highly trained assassins on Rhiannon’s trail. Your quarry will be

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another vampire named Vincent. He is many centuries old, so he will be hard to eliminate. Clive paused for a moment, a frown creasing his ageless brow. “He is not to be captured. We will know when you have completed your task. Kill him and you will be forgiven for your crimes.” Randy and Mike left the Temple and mounted their

motorcycles, their weapons hidden under their coats. Rhiannon left the Crows without warning, disappearing as suddenly as she had come. They went on feeding nightly, but tried to maintain a certain amount of discretion. There was no lack of prey in Salt Lake City. Transients and Prostitutes were of plenty supply, though some were diseased, their sickness could not touch them. They

developed preferences immediately, even when they wanted to ingest intoxicants they would find someone with a high alcohol level in their blood. The news televised the bodies that were found, and some that the Crows had not killed properly were executed in churches upon their rebirth. Hospitals in our area were placed on high alert for John and

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Jane Does that came in because some awakened with the bloodlust before they could be embalmed, causing chaos in the sanitary environments of the medical facilities. The Crows found this to be amusing, but police work involved in the autopsies of those that remained dead was a threat to their secrecy. The Crows left their homes and hid out in different places, making it harder and harder for the authorities to pin them down and bring them in for their criminal activities. He had no trouble finding them despite their efforts to stay hidden. He was obviously a being of great power. His name was Vincent. He swore them to secrecy about Rhiannon and told them that more would come and find them. He specified that Rhiannon’s scent was what helped him find them, and that some very dangerous individuals would take them to something called the VCouncil, and to be prepared not to fight, but to comply with them. He was in a hurry, trying to catch up with Rhiannon. He seemed to have a certain animosity toward Shane. He left after only a few hours, intent upon finding his apparent love.

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Keokuk and Drake, though they had the ability to transform and had a more convenient means of travel, took the GTO and followed the trail of Vincent, who they somehow sensed was back to following Rhiannon. The world was somehow a new place now, and they had to be more careful. The veiling was being lifted once again. Serene’s predictions were coming to be. Rhiannon was on her own now, Vincent had left to try to draw the assassins away from her, she knew this not by anything he said, but by the thoughts he had that she had been able to read. She sensed him coming back to her, she did not know how she knew this, but she could see his face more clearly with each passing day in her dreams.

Rhiannon followed the scent of a male, her favorite prey. He was living in a fairly secluded place with few neighbors. He was the perfect kill. She approached his house, scenting the air, half drunk on the perfume of the blood running through his veins. He was alone, watching the news on his television set. She could see him through his living room

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window. She decided that the direct approach would be good enough. The man heard a small knock on his door, he rose slowly from his chair, his joints painfully creaking from the hard days work he had put in tending his small farm. He looked through the peep-hole in his door and saw a beautiful, dark woman standing on his doorstep, a worried expression on her face. He unlocked the door, but left the chain hooked. "What do you want?" He asked, peering at her through the narrow crack of the door. "My car is out of gas", Rhiannon stated, knowing that this was going to be easier than she thought. "Do you have any extra?" The door closed and she could hear the man sliding the chain loose from its position. The door opened and a middle aged man stepped out onto the wide porch with her. "Sure, I have some gas in the barn." Rhiannon shoved the man back through the open door and onto the floor. He fought her, trying to regain his feet, but she pressed his head back onto the floor and ripped out his

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throat, the blood sprayed into her eyes and she was blinded for a moment. She drank deeply, savoring each burst of blood as it forcefully filled her mouth with his heartbeat. She stripped off her shirt and let the blood spray upon her breasts, rubbing it in with her hands. She screamed with the pleasure and resumed drinking until his heart stopped. Rhiannon, in her disregard for everything living and undead was opening the American mindset to the existence of what was always there but never completely believed. Keokuk was silent, angry, and set on the mission. They were further aided by news reports on the radio. Even though news of killings in the manner of vampirism were being investigated more thoroughly now, Drake was able to understand that it was likely that she had recently passed through Utah. The further they drove from the temple and the combined intellect of the Council, the weaker were their abilities to keep a synchronized connection with their comrades. Daylight was coming soon and they needed a place to rest, ignoring the fact that they had not had fresh blood for days. Thanks to the help of an operative that

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worked in a blood bank as a night security guard, they had sustenance with them. Utah was not far away, but the weakness began to take them as they pulled into a hotel. Plenty of money had been made available to them by the council, so they had no problem making the security deposit and getting a room for the day. Drake removed blankets from the bed and blocked the front window of the room. Keokuk slept on the floor, as was his nature, and Drake took the bed. Around noon they were awakened by a loud pounding on the door. Drake staggered to the door and blearily answered it, blocking the light from his sensitive eyes with his forearm. A group of civilians rushed into the room, knocking him down and rolling him onto his stomach, cuffing his wrists together. Keokuk was dragged from his resting place on the floor and the bags they had drank from before going to sleep were gathered and stuffed into a backpack. They were quickly gagged and bound at the hands and feet with cuffs and shackles. A van was pulled up to the doorway and they were thrown into the back.

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The church was full of frightened people. The two dangerous looking vampires lay on the cold tile floor, not quite awake, but lucid. They were confirmed to be vampires by the evidence found in their hotel room. A bishop entered the room and stared down at them, still disbelieving at what they had captured. These were the first he had ever seen in person. The stories in the media had not implicated these two, but they had to be the real thing. He approached a basin of holy water and filled a cup. Turning to the captives, he tossed the water upon them. The larger of the two gave him a scowl and struggled at his shackles. The crowd stepped back as he fought his way to his knees. The bishop ordered one of the men nearby to take the gags off. He wanted to question these two. He did not recognize either one, and he wanted to know where they came from. The gags were removed. “What is your business here?” The bishop asked.

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Keokuk smiled sardonically, “Stupid human, you have no idea what is going to happen to your world. We are looking for the cause of all your troubles.” The Bishop still did not understand. “Explain!” “The one named Rhiannon, she is the one we were seeking before your Holiness decided to drag us into this place.” “You are vampires, are you not?” “Yes, we are, but we posed no threat to you until you interfered.” “You pose a threat now?” In one swift movement Keokuk snapped the links between his cuffs and uttered an incantation. The shackles at his feet fell away as he turned into a black cloud of smoke. It swirled around Drake and suddenly he was freed also, the metal turning to dust and falling away. Keokuk materialized behind the bishop and seized him with one muscular arm, yanking his body to the side and breaking his spine. Screaming, the man fell to the floor, his body twitching uncontrollably. Women screamed and several men rushed forward in an attempt at subduing the two

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vampires, who, with a few more uttered words, turned to large black bat-like creatures. Many of those who rushed in were immediately torn apart by the transformed beings. During the melee, however, the rest of the onlookers left the church in a crush of bodies, falling down the wide steps leading from the doors. Keokuk and Drake drank their fill from those still alive and left the Church. They hadn’t realized it, but they had been driven into Utah. Night had fallen while they were being questioned, which explained Keokuk and Drake’s return to their strength. The Van sat empty with the keys still in the ignition, so they took it and resumed their chase of Rhiannon and Vincent. Gerald Wilson had certain plans for Rhiannon, he was now a firm believer that she was a vampire, and he wanted to destroy her at all costs. He decided to pay a visit to an arms dealer he had busted that was supposed to be clean now, but he knew the man was still selling the same merchandise. He drove to the run-down looking pawn shop

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and entered the building. The broker in question shot him a paranoid look and finished his business with a customer that was trying to get a good price on a wedding band. Finally, the broker approached him and leaned on the counter. “What do you want, cop?” “I’m not here as a cop, Gerald replied, “I want to get some firepower.” “You know I don’t sell stuff like that anymore.” Gerald reached forward and grabbed the broker by the collar and pressed a gun to the side of his head. “Show me the merchandise I want, now!” “Okay! Okay! I’ll get you what you want, just don’t threaten me.” The broker reached for a silent alarm button under the counter and Gerald caught his arm and twisted it behind his back. “None of that crap, just take me to your inventory.” The broker sighed and led Gerald to the back room, as the ex-deputy had suspected, there were several boxes of automatic firearms and other weapons. He tipped over

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several boxes and selected an M-16 with several clips and two boxes of grenades. He began shoving the boxes around until he found two rocket launchers and took a box of missiles that matched the device. “Thanks for your service.” He glowered at the dealer, “Maybe I’ll be back. As Gerald left the shop the broker thought about pressing the alarm button again, but decided against it. He had too much to lose if any officers showed up. Gerald loaded his newly acquired munitions into the back of his pickup and covered them carefully with an old blanket. He climbed into the cab and turned on the radio as he drove to the freeway. He listened to a radio preacher for a few moments. The man was talking about the need to rid America of the Satan-Spawn that was infested in every neighborhood and city. Tiring of that quickly, he turned the dial until he caught a news station. He listened to the usual traffic reports and the weather reports. Finally he heard what he was listening for. There had been more killings that were believed to have been made by the now-famous Rhiannon. There was some

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speculation that she was not alone in her work. Gerald turned it up. These killings were made just north of the border of Utah in Idaho. An older man had been found in his home, completely drained of blood and his throat ripped open. This was her trademark. Gerald remembered the condition of the bodies on the shore of the Salton Sea. Most of the teens had been torn up in much the same way. He tried to concentrate on how he was going to get to Idaho, banishing the images of the bodies from his mind for now. He had a long drive and not much time to find her.

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The Shadow of Rhiannon Chapter 3

Vincent had been right, as the Crows hid in an old deserted house they heard the rumble of an engine. Shane stepped to the window as the rest of them dressed, getting ready to go out and find fresh blood. He hurried back the group and dragged Todd to the windows as he was pulling on a sock. Two murderous looking individuals were getting out of a van and approaching the house. Shane turned and ordered, “Come on, get dressed, now!”

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The door was broken down in a flash and two vampires strode into their midst. “You are new reborns?” The tall blondish vampire asked them while the Indian kept his silence. “Yes, we are.” Shane stepped forward. The Indian stepped forward and pressed a finger to his temple. Shane froze, his entire body quivering as if he were being electrocuted. Suddenly none of the crows could move their arms, it was as though they were bound to their sides by strong ropes. The two vampires dragged them out of the house one by one and threw them into the back of the van. As Vincent had ordered them, the Crows did not speak of Rhiannon, but somehow they knew that the Native American vampire had already withdrawn information about her when he had touched Shane, who was still shaking as though every nerve in his body was reacting to an electrical shock. They were unable to speak at all, in fact. To even attempt to talk among themselves was restricted by some

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strange power that the two vampires that had taken them had. Rhiannon left Idaho in her usual manner, flying east. Somehow knowing that she was being pursued kept her from staying in her human-like form for very long. She had fed upon an older man in Idaho. He was alone, so she had been able to enjoy his blood in every way she wanted to. She had found long ago that she loved the sensations that blood gave her when she rubbed it over her body. Vincent followed her from a distance of about a mile behind, knowing that now was not the time to join her again. She was enjoying her personal freedom and he respected that now. She had to rest sometime, and he would join her then. He sensed that she missed him a bit. He hoped that she would be receptive when he caught up with her. She was even more attractive to him now that she was developing her power. Even as a new reborn, she rivaled Serene herself in beauty and strength.

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After driving for two days, their captors led them from the van into an abandoned church. This was obviously near the West Coast, Palm trees lined the empty streets. The

Crows were led inside and the invisible bonds on their bodies were lifted. The inside of the church was lit only by candles in sconces that lined the walls. “Welcome, reborns,” a powerful voice echoed in their minds as they entered a large room with a long table set in the center. A black cloaked woman stood at the head while others slowly rose to greet them. “What have you brought us?” The woman spoke, addressing their captors. The tall German and the stocky Indian bowed to her. “These reborns are Rhiannon’s work.” The cloaked woman regarded the Crows for a few seconds, searching their minds. “They know nothing of Rhiannon’s location. Teach them the way and release them.” She stopped for a moment and her ageless eyes rested upon Jason. Smiling slightly, she waved a hand, dismissing them.

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The Crows were taught a few basic guidelines based on the idea of something called “The Great Veiling”. They were not to have sexual contact with mortals without killing them when they were finished with them. Also, they were not to have sexual contact with another vampire for reasons unknown. Todd and Crystal cast each other a long glance, knowing that they were not going to be able to follow that rule. They were not to leave the bodies of the victims in such a manner that they were recognizable as a vampiric kill, if they did the body had to be buried or burned. They were not to tell any mortal of their secret, even under torture. If they created another vampire, they would have to bring them to the council to be given the law. They were not to kill another vampire except under the most extreme self-defense

circumstances. They were not to give away the location of this church, which their instructor called “The Temple of Lilith”, or the location of the Council, wherever they may be. They were not to kill any mortal where they could be seen doing so. They were to kill only the weak, the derelict, and

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the homeless. They were not to create another vampire that was under the age of 16. The crows were told that their

powers would grow stronger every night, but never to use them as a means of getting admiration. They were not to drink blood after the heart of the victim stopped beating, as they could become very ill. They also were not to drink the blood of another vampire, as that would prove fatal. Crystal had to ask, “Who was the woman in the black cloak?” “She is Serene, the most ancient of us that we know, and the Empress of the Council. ”They were then passed from the acolyte that told them of the law to a blonde female vampire that they recognized as one of the elders that sat at the table of the council. For the rest of the night, she showed them how to use their newly discovered power to read minds, and shape-shift into various forms other than their human persona. The Crows were held in thrall by this one named Minx. She was very beautiful and ageless as Serene herself, but different. They learned as much as they could from her. Then the Crows were finally released. They left the Temple of

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Lilith

and

found

themselves

back

in

Salt

Lake

City,

compliments of the sorceress. Randy and Mike had to feed, they had been riding hard for two nights. The daytime sun was so unpleasant that they were forced to find a place to hide from it. There were no buildings in the area so they had to dig themselves a place in the sand of the Mojave Desert and did their best to cover themselves. The sand was hot of course, but the weakness took them almost before they were able to cover themselves. The third night they awakened and burst from the sand. They checked their motorcycles that they had hidden away behind a rocky hill and found them undisturbed. Mike and Randy walked to the highway and posed as hitchikers. It was dark and there were few vehicles on the normally busy stretch of asphalt. Finally a car with three hispanic men stopped and let them in. The driver asked them in broken English where they were going and they told him that they were just heading east. He accepted this and soon they were riding at a high rate of speed, leaving the motorcycles behind. Randy decided that

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they

should

feed

as

soon

as

possible.

He

mentally

communicated this to his brother. Mike reached around the seat with his left arm and grasped the driver's head and smashed it through the windsheild. The man in the passenger seat cursed loudly in Spanish and grabbed the steering wheel as his friend slumped back in his seat, his forehead crushed. The car veered out of control and smashed through the guard rail, rolling down a steep embankment and finally turning onto its side. Mike and Randy took advantage of the shock to the other two men, who were still buckled into their seats. Mike struck the front passenger across the face, shattering teeth in the man's already bruised and lacerated face. This knocked the man unconscious and Mike sank his teeth into his throat while climbing into the front of the car. The third man fainted dead away and Randy slashed his throat with his fingernails, the man's flesh stretched with a ripping sound. Randy opened his mouth as wide as he could and clamped into the man's neck as blood poured from the elongated

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wounds. The brothers fed for as long as they could, then dragged themselves from the car. Mike had a broken leg, the bone protruding from his flesh. In his feeding frenzy he had not even noticed that he was injured. Randy set the bone back into place and the hole in Mike's leg sealed over. Randy helped Mike up the

embankment and back onto the highway. They walked back to their motorcycles, Mike limping slightly. Broken bones never healed as well or quickly as flesh did, but when they reached their bikes he was able to ride, and that was all that mattered at the time. Jason had noticed Serene's interest in him when they met her, but he did not know why she had singled him out, even momentarily. Even with the robe shadowing her face, he could see her eyes clearly, glowing a white/blue luminosity. Her eyes remained in his mind, distracting him from all other thought.

The crows returned to their lair, the excitement of what they had become and what they were a part of filled their

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minds. Even their own parents had seemed afraid of them. The danger of being singled out and interrogated hung in their minds also. They knew that they were right to leave their homes to escape such a fate. Somehow they knew that they would die if they were ever caught. That danger was exciting and they actually looked forward to going out. Crystal and Todd were slightly afraid to be too close to each other after learning that no sexual contact was a rule of the vampire way. It was not to stay that way for long, though.

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The Shadow of Rhiannon Chapter 4

Rhiannon shook herself, the feathers on her body withdrawing into her flesh and disappearing. Her clothing automatically formed around her once more and the duffel bag she had taken appeared beside her. The barn had the slightly musty odor of old straw and years of abandonment. Climbing into the loft, Rhiannon cleared a spot to sleep. She was hungry, but the need to rest surpassed the feeling. Vincent arrived at the barn and stood outside for a moment. The sun was rising in the east and he momentarily marveled at its beauty for the first time in years. As soon as he sensed that she was asleep he entered through the partially open doors. She was in the loft. He sat against the wall near the entrance and felt sleepy instantly. He had

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followed her into Colorado on the wing, staying just out of her range of perception, or so he thought. Rhiannon awakened at dusk. She stretched and was suddenly aware of Vincent. She climbed down from the loft and kneeled before him. In a rush of emotion she realized that he meant her no harm, and never had. She reached out and gently ran her fingers along his strong jawline. His eyes opened and he caught her in his arms. She did not fight, but actually returned his affection with a passionate kiss. He had not expected this of her. He began to withdraw, searching her mind for any possible threat, there was none. “I missed you.” He whispered huskily “I know.” Rhiannon replied, looking into his eyes. They made love for the second time since they had met, drawing each other’s strength with each touch. Their minds and bodies were one. A crow swooped down to a treetop and began to preen its feathers. Soon two others joined it and they grouped closely together. They made no sound, but a small boy noticed them immediately. He hurried into his house and

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entered his bedroom, pulling a pellet rifle from beneath his bed. He hurried back outside and stared back up, hoping that the crows were still there. They were, so he aimed the rifle at the three of them and squeezed the trigger. Two of the crows took flight immediately, but one fell from the tree. It landed in the grass, dead from a pellet to its head. The boy picked it up and shook it, making sure it was dead. He dropped it back into the grass and walked away momentarily to get his dog. Unhooking the chain from the Rottweiler’s collar, he led it back to the crows resting place, only to find a smoking human skeleton lying there. The Rottweiler whined and sped back to its doghouse, cringing back into a corner. The child ran back into the house, screaming for his mother. The incident made national news. Paranoia ran deeper than ever before. The story of the two vampires that had been captured and taken into Utah that had transformed into horrifying monsters also made headlines. Now it was widely known that the vampires had to have their hands bound behind them and be gagged if the execution was to be done

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after dark. During the day they were weakened enough to be captured. Mobs of angry and frightened citizens attacked the Gothic wanna-be’s and the Dark-Siders, taking them to churches and murdering them. Brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons became casualties of war. Randy and Mike reached Utah. Not being gifted as the more ancient vampires, they could do nothing more than follow the news stories. By now, vampire sightings were being reported from all over the country, and this made it harder than ever to track Rhiannon and Vincent. They decided to try to contact the council’s sorceress for her aid. They took their motorcycles deep into the forested area of Utah, and made camp. They built a fire and stared into the flames, calling to Minx with every ounce of concentration they could muster.

The fire turned to a bright red, then blue flame shot from it and enveloped them. The sorceress appeared, hovering slightly above the fire. Randy and Mike knelt before her, paying proper

consideration for her power.

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“Why did you call me?” “We need aid in finding Rhiannon.” Mike replied respectfully. “I know of three things,” Minx stated, “I know where she has been, where she is now, and where she will be. Travel by day and night to Arkansas, and wait there. Call on me when you reach that state and I will give you further instruction.” Minx vanished in a flash of light and the flames returned to normal. Randy and Mike, not wanting to waste any time, put out the fire and mounted their motorcycles again. The kill was made, and Rhiannon and Vincent knelt in the grass of a large park, spreading the still-living blood over each other’s bodies, enjoying their time together. Vincent pulled her close and their lips and tongues met. They pressed their naked bodies together and experienced the sensations of the blood as one, heart, mind, and spirit. Rhiannon was finally his, and she was more exciting with each new moment. No longer did she have any inhibitions. The pool at the nearby recreation center was warm and inviting. The blood washed off their bodies easily. Rhiannon dipped her hair back into the water and washed it back from

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her face. She splashed Vincent, smiling more genuinely than she had for a very long time. He encircled her in his arms and they went under together, wrestling playfully. The water around them reddened slightly, then cleared with their movement.

A patrol car shined its spotlight through the park, then stopped. An officer got out and leaned back into the window for a moment, telling his rider that he would be right back. He held his flashlight at his shoulder and walked through the park, searching for the strange form he had seen from the car. Sure enough, a body lay in the grass, stripped naked and obviously bitten in several places. A sudden hiss made him start, and the automatic sprinklers began to spray water over the site. He took his radio from his belt and called for backup. “We have a corpse in Hillside Park, send backup and a forensics team.” “What is the state of the body?” The dispatcher asked. “Looks like a vampire kill, several bite wounds, also very recent.”

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As the officer was returning to his car, he noticed a commotion inside the vehicle. His steps quickened to a run, but he was too late. His rider was being finished off by two vampires, the female turned to look at him and he immediately realized who he was looking at. It was Rhiannon and a male comrade. He began to back off, slowly at first, then he turned and ran back into the park, screaming into his handheld radio for backup. When the backup arrived, the officer and his rider had already been torn apart by Vincent and Rhiannon. The fear of being discovered forced Rhiannon’s Crows to leave High School. They left their homes also, knowing that they could be implicated at any time. The Goth clubs that they frequented had been shut down by the paranoid public. They found an abandoned house on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. The inside of the house was filled with graffiti, but it was still carpeted and a mattress had been dragged into the master bedroom. A false corpse lay upon the stairway to the second floor, it was nothing more than clothing stitched together and stuffed with cotton, meant to scare anyone that entered the house. Todd and Jason tossed it back and forth to each other and

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the rest of them looked on with a certain degree of amusement. The levity was refreshing, but they had to feed again very soon. Dusk was falling, and with it came their new perception. The Crows were not alone in this house. They decided to search the upper floor. They found what we were looking for, two squatters were in the first room they came to. It was hardly enough for the six of them. Shane kicked down the door and entered in a blur of movement, surprising the squatters. Crystal grasped the woman and yanked her head to the side, sinking her teeth into the human’s throat. The squatters had been asleep when the Crows surprised them, so they were not quite aware of what was happening to them. Todd joined Crystal in feeding off the woman, while Shane and Lauren struggled with the large man. With a few shattering blows to the head, Shane rendered him unconscious. Marilee stood in the doorway. She was always the shy one. Crystal motioned for her to come and join the rest. She complied and they finished off the squatters in minutes. Still hungry, they returned to the lower floor and discussed their options. They could go out and feed again, but there was always the danger of being discovered. They decided that Shane, Todd, and Jason could go out and find more prey to bring back to the new lair.

The girls waited for three hours, wondering when the boys would be back or if they would be at all. The wait seemed to take an eternity, but they
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were patient and the boys returned, carrying three comatose-looking people. They took turns feeding on them. Crystal pitied the victims, it was still hard for her to take a life since her rebirth. Soon they were dead, and she closed their eyes. They carried them upstairs and dumped the bodies along with the two squatters.

Gerald sat in his pickup, resting from an all night drive. A thermos of coffee sat at his side and he quietly munched on a sandwich he had bought at a convenience store. The newsman broadcasted the usual subjects. False sightings of Rhiannon were pouring in from all over the country, but an incident in Colorado caught his attention the most. An officer had been left barely alive, but he was able to tell of Rhiannon and a male counterpart that had killed a transient and his rider. The name of the officer and the victims were being withheld, as usual. He was being held in critical condition in a hospital. According to the report, one of his arms had been completely torn from his body.

Gerald started up the pickup and headed for Colorado.

Vincent and Rhiannon flew south, knowing that they were being pursued by the council and renegade bounty hunters. Arkansas was wild
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country, and there were sure to be plenty of places to hide there. Even in the darkness, the terrain of Arkansas was beautiful. The ancient trees were laced here and there with streams of water and an occasional dirt road. After a time, they came to a trailer park, nestled inside the trees. Vincent swooped low and landed upon the branch of a nearby tree. Rhiannon followed suit and they studied the mobile homes. Windows were lit up in most of the trailers, but not a soul was outside. One trailer caught their interest, however. They could hear what sounded like an altercation going on inside it. Rhiannon flew from the branch and settled lightly on the roof of the trailer that the sounds were coming from. A sudden scream and crash startled her. She hopped to the ground and took her human form. A large man stepped from the interior of the trailer, beer bottle in hand. He took a long drink from the bottle and pointed back through the open door, shouting at someone to stop crying or he would give them something to cry about. That was the last straw for Rhiannon. She moved on the man in a flash, ripping the side of his face open. He screamed and dropped the bottle, turning to go back inside, but Rhiannon slammed the door closed before he could move. She leapt upon him, driving him to the ground, screaming in rage. She slashed his face again with her long fingernails, taking out one of his eyes in the process. He covered his face with both hands, leaving the rest of his body unprotected. Rhiannon unzipped his pants and tore them off. Vincent watched in surprise
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as she also tore off the man’s briefs and proceeded to cleanly bite off his penis.

By now the man’s screams had alerted the entire trailer park, people stepped from their homes and watched the scene in horror. The child that he was beating also stepped to the door, but was too shocked to move. Rhiannon bit into his throat and blood sprayed her face and clothing. The man, though weakened, continued to fight her. With a deft movement, she snapped his neck, and drank the still living blood that flowed from his throat in full view of all the spectators, her eyes glowing a brilliant red from her rage. Vincent flapped down from the tree and landed on her shoulder, letting her know it was time to leave this place. She performed the gestures and concentrated, becoming a crow once more. The two flew off into the darkness.

Randy and Mike were making good progress. They had not fed much in the past few nights, but as always, the thrill of the open road and their mission kept them going. They listened to the news while they rode their motorcycles. A late breaking news story came on about the slaying of a man in Arkansas. He had been slaughtered by someone fitting the description of Rhiannon. There had been several witnesses to the event. “So they have gone south,” Randy mused to himself. “They are trying to throw everyone off their
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trail.” Unbeknownst to Randy and Mike, the local police had set up a roadblock ahead of them. They were unspecifically looking for vampires, as some of the members of the force still found the stories hard to believe. They were more searching for anyone fitting Rhiannon’s description. In fact, road blocks had been set up on all roads and highways. The brothers were currently in Montana in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Randy shared the thought with Mike that Rhiannon was in Arkansas. They drove silently Southeast for six miles before they saw the roadblock. It was too late for them to turn back, as one of the officers had already spotted them. They tried to appear as human as possible and slowed to a stop.

An officer strode up to Randy’s motorcycle and shone a flashlight into his eyes. “Hey, you a bloodsucker?” the officer asked, jokingly. Randy just shot him a glance and told him no, that they were just out on a road trip. “Well, be careful in these parts,” the officer told him “You are headed right into trouble if your going to Arkansas.” The officers let them pass peacefully, but Randy and Mike were feeling a bit jumpy from the encounter. They could have been discovered and implicated.

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Ahead of Randy and Mike, Gerald sleepily drove South on the Interstate 25. He had decided after hearing the news of the murder in Arkansas that he would try to find Rhiannon in Little Rock. The road became a blur and he shook his head, trying to stay awake. He knew that if he parked somewhere to sleep, that there was a possibility that an officer would awaken him with an inspection of his truck and its holdings. He could not afford that to happen. A sign by the highway advertised a truck stop ahead, and he decided to take the off ramp. He pulled into the convenience store parking lot and parked his pickup as far away from the mart as he could. The restaurant section of the truck stop was fairly crowded with various travelers, but mostly truck drivers. Gerald slid into a small booth next to a window so he could watch his vehicle. The waitress handed him a menu and asked what he would have to drink. “Just coffee for now.” He told her and thumbed through the menu. Nothing looked appetizing, but he ordered a cheeseburger and some fries. He drank his coffee quickly and asked the waitress for more when she delivered his order. She refilled his cup, then, looking into his sunken eyes, left the pot. He thanked her and started on the burger. As he ate, he realized that he was hungrier than he thought. By the time he finished, the pot of coffee was empty. He walked from the restaurant portion of the stop to the convenience store, finding what he was looking for at the
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counter. He purchased several packages of caffeine pills and returned to his pickup. Thankfully, it had remained unmolested. He quickly checked the back and its contents before unlocking the driver’s side door and getting in. He quickly popped two of the caffeine pills and drove back to the highway, feeling more awake, but somehow more ragged. The Crows hadn’t come out of hiding for days. The emptiness inside outweighed any remorse that they would have to endure if they fed. So they left their shelter and felt refreshed by the night air, the atmosphere inside their lair having the odor of death from previous kills. They had decided not to bring the victims back to their lair anymore. They already had to dispose of five bodies. The Crows split up, The twins, Jason and Marilee headed for the south side of the city, while Todd and Crystal walked toward the train yards, Lauren and Shane turned into the business district. A train was being set up for transport. Todd and Crystal knew that there would be derelicts hanging about. They cloaked themselves and scoured the train yard, shielded by the invisibility that Rhiannon had taught them to use. The living scent came from an empty car that had just arrived. They boarded the car, their eyes adjusting quickly to the darkness. In the back of the car sat two older men in ragged clothing. They were looking around nervously, obviously worried about being caught. Todd materialized in the doorway while Crystal slipped around
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behind them. The derelicts were on their feet immediately. One drew a straight razor from his inside coat pocket. “This car is taken,” he muttered, ”you are going to have to find another one.” Crystal emerged from the darkness and kicked the hand that held the straight razor from behind the derelict. The weapon flew from his hand and landed at Todd’s feet. The derelict turned in surprise and was unable to stop Crystal from sweeping his legs from beneath him. His friend tried to dash for the doorway, but was roughly thrown back into the car. Screams issued from the train that had just arrived and a man with a flashlight hurried to check it out. By the time he reached the car the screaming had stopped. He shone his flashlight into the car. Two corpses lay upon the metal floor of the freight car, their throats ripped wide open. The man searched the rest of the car with his flashlight, but found no one else inside. He turned and hurried back to the office. The caffeine pills were working. Gerald listened to his C.B. radio and occasionally spoke to other people that were on the road. A trucker’s voice came over the radio. “Hey, anyone out there headed for Arkansas?” Gerald picked up his microphone. “This is Grisly Bear, headed that direction, come back?”

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“Yeah, all the main roads are blocked by Smokies. Looking for vampires or something.” “10-4 on that, will be on the lookout.” Marilee and Jason arrived at a small apartment complex that stood next to a Vi-duct with train tracks running through it. A small group of teens that Marilee and Jason recognized from High School sat on the curb next to a row of trees, smoking cigarettes and laughing as they chatted together. From the shadows the two Crows watched as the teens rose and walked toward the Viduct. The teens climbed up the concrete sides of the structure and sat as if expecting something. After a while, a train roared through and the teens scrambled down the sides and began throwing rocks at it. Marilee and Jason waited patiently until the train had passed, then approached the other teens. “Busted!” Jason shouted humorously as they neared them. The teenagers started, then relaxed as they remembered Jason and Marilee from school. “What are you two doing all the way out here? You live on the North side.” A larger stocky teen wanted to know. “Just out for a midnight walk, what’s your excuse?” “Just having a little fun here.” “Mind if we join you?” “Sure, come on over, another train is due in a half hour.”
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Marilee and Jason climbed up the side of the structure and sat with the other teenagers. All together the others added up to six. They would have to be separated to be fed upon. The stocky teenager pulled a plastic bag from his coat pocket, it held three joints, a small amount of marijuana, and a pipe. Soon almost everyone was passing the intoxicants around, giggling for no reason, and their antics were getting wilder and wilder by the minute. The stocky teen and a pretty dark haired girl left the others and walked to the other side of the vi-duct, just out of sight. The others were amused by this and the giggling increased. Marilee and Jason knew that if they took these teens they would be intoxicated by their blood. A mild shaking sensation was felt by everyone and the teens hurried back down the sloping walls of the vi-duct and began to pile up stones. Marilee and Jason decided that this was the time to feed. Jason grasped a female by the arm and threw her in front of the train, Marilee followed suit and threw a male onto the tracks. Screaming at the sight of their friend’s demise, the two remaining teens made a wild dash for the apartment complex. The two Crows were faster and brought them down like wolves. As the train continued to roar by, Marilee and Jason fed until they were satisfied. The others had to be taken out also, Marilee and Jason waited until the train had passed, then followed the scent of the male and female. They soon found them, making out in a grassy clearing near the tracks. They had not heard
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their friend’s screams because of the noise of the passing train. Marilee and Jason took them easily, there had to be no witnesses. Lauren and Shane walked past several bars. A seemingly drunk man staggered out of one with a skinny blonde in his arm. Laughing and talking, they walked down an alley, completely disregarding the two darkly dressed Crows. Shane thought about feeding on these two for a moment, but he wanted to stay sharp, and he knew that their blood would pass on the intoxication. Lauren had already made up her mind to find better quarry. She walked ahead of Shane and turned slightly, bidding him to follow. He sighed and hurried to catch up with her. Finally, they spotted two fairly rotund women leaving the Greyhound bus station. Both were fairly weighed down with luggage. They sat down on a bench by the street, obviously waiting for a ride. Shane, having already mastered his mind control technique, walked right up to the women and spoke a few words to them. They both rose and followed him to an alley behind a nearby building. Lauren looked around to make sure that she was not seen, then walked after them. Shane was already feeding on one while the other looked on, still under his spell. Lauren jerked her head back and sank her teeth into the woman’s throat.

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When the crows got back together at the derelict house, Shane and Lauren opened up several pieces of luggage and rifled through the contents. The clothing was not of much use to them, but they managed to find over a thousand dollars in the purses. Marilee, Crystal, and Lauren found some rather large pieces of lingerie and were giggling, tossing them at each other. Todd, Shane and Jason dragged the decomposing bodies of their previous kills out to the back yard and began digging a grave. Feeling partially responsible, the girls soon joined them. Three hours later, as the sun began to rise, they dumped the bodies into a fairly large hole and began to cover them with soil.

Gerald finally slept, he stopped at a motel and got a room for the night. He just couldn’t drive any more. He was exhausted and his caffeine pills had run out. He vowed to wake up by 7:00. He had passed the Arkansas border long ago. Taking a back road so as not to run into the roadblocks. Somehow he knew that Rhiannon was here. He tossed and turned for a half hour, then fell asleep.

His dreams were filled with the horror of the bodies of the teenagers and his son. The corpses came to life and
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reached out to him, blood pouring from their necks. They whispered as they approached him, and he had to strain to hear them. His own son embraced him, covering him with blood. “Avenge us. Avenge us.........” they spoke.

Randy and Mike called upon Minx again. They were camped out in a wooded area in Arkansas. Their campfire blazed with the same bright red light and they were once more enveloped with the blue flame. Minx appeared, her blonde hair reflecting the red firelight. “Rhiannon and Vincent are two miles north of your current position.” Her voice echoed through the stillness. ”Now is your chance to take them.” Vincent and Rhiannon had found a cave in which to sleep away the daytime. They had curled up together on the cold stone floor. Now they awakened with a sense that they were about to fight for their lives. They did not know who had found them, but that was not important. Vincent crept up to the cave’s entrance, flattening himself against the wall by the opening. He scented the air, analyzing it. There were two vampires nearby. He did not recognize their scents as assassins of the council. Rhiannon crouched behind a stalagmite, scenting as Vincent did.

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Randy and Mike found the cave that was the temporary lair of the two they sought. Randy pulled out his 9mm Ruger and carefully approached the cave’s entrance. Mike had his Glock ready, following Randy’s lead. The two hoped that they would have the element of surprise. From the temple of Lilith, Minx and Serene sat in Serene’s private quarters, watching the scene with the viewing window. They knew that Rhiannon and Vincent would not be killed so easily. The two watched intently, the need to witness the event was crucial. They could see that Randy and Mike Schmidt were approaching the cave’s entrance, but inside, Vincent was ready for the attack. Mike and Randy had terribly underestimated the elder vampire. They crept up to the opening, then rushed inside.

The window shifted and Serene and Minx watched as Vincent came from behind the two unaware brothers, who’s focus was erroneously upon Rhiannon. A struggle ensued, Vincent striking Mike across the temple with a well placed kick and throwing Randy against the opposite wall of the chamber. Rhiannon joined the fight by leaping onto Randy’s

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back as he staggered to his knees. She slashed his throat open with her fingernails and he fell onto his stomach, choking. Shots rang out as Mike fired the Glock at Rhiannon, striking her in the shoulder and grazing her temple. Bullets ricocheted off the cave walls and everyone hit the floor to avoid being shot. Rhiannon and Vincent sped for the exit, transforming as they ran. By the time they reached the opening they were large crows.

They flew away into the night, leaving the brothers to recuperate. Serene was very impressed with the traitorous Vincent. He was still obeying council law. He had only defended against the attacking vampires, not killing them was an act of strength and loyalty. There might still be hope for him.

Gerald stopped his pickup at a small diner/truckstop for some dinner and coffee. He had been lucky enough to catch some sleep and felt awake enough to go on, but something more was happening inside his mind. The

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dream he had was some kind of message from the slain victims of Rhiannon. He was the tool of her demise. Maybe he was becoming demented from his experience at the Salton Sea and his lack of sleep, he did not know. He only knew that he was designated to eliminate her.

Chapter 5

Rhiannon’s wingbeats were painful. She had been struck in the shoulder, but the bullet had dropped out when she morphed. She only knew that she had to feed. Below them, Vincent spotted a busy truck stop, and swooped low into the tree line on the outskirts. Rhiannon followed him down. They transformed back into their humanoid form and watched from the brush. A truck was parked nearby and they could smell the occupant inside. He was asleep in the back of the cab. Vincent yanked the door open, breaking the lock. The truckdriver was instantly on his feet, pulling a large knife from his boot. Vincent snapped his arm easily and struck him across the mouth with the back of his hand, shattering several teeth. The knife clattered away across the pavement. Vincent threw him back into the sleeper and bit into the inner elbow of the arm he had just broken. Rhiannon climbed into the truck and sank her teeth into the man’s throat. They enjoyed his blood together, draining
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him as slowly as possible. The man struggled, but was unable to scream as he had three of his own teeth lodged in his throat. Finally, his struggling ceased and Vincent and Rhiannon left his withered corpse in the sleeper. A thin blonde leaned against the wall near the diner area of the truck stop. She periodically spoke to the men leaving the restaurant in a hushed voice. One man even stopped long enough for her to flash her drooping breasts to him, then he went on his way, a slight grin on his face. Rhiannon spotted her immediately. She prompted Vincent and he walked over to the whore. As Rhiannon watched intently, they spoke together for a few moments, then entered the alley between the car wash and the mini mart. The blonde dropped to her knees before Vincent and began to unzip his pants as Rhiannon approached them. The blonde looked at her and back at Vincent.

“I had no idea you wanted a threesome, but whatever your poison, honey.” Rhiannon jerked her to her feet and slammed her against the wall, her fingernails digging into the sides of the blonde’s neck. The prostitute struggled weakly, then fainted. “She isn’t worth our trouble.” Vincent said, “Lets find someone else.” Gerald had been watching the prostitute with little interest until the tall, blonde man had taken her away. In her profession, she should have been back within twenty minutes. He took another drink of his coffee, then rose and left
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a couple of wadded bills at his table for the waitress. He stepped outside just in time to hear a small scream. Gerald hurried in the general direction of the sound and discovered the prostitute lying on the ground. He felt for a pulse and found her still alive. She had only fainted, but was bleeding from a badly bruised and slightly lacerated neck. She slowly awakened and winced at the pain. “Don’t try to move, I’ll get help.” She laid her head back onto the concrete and Gerald rushed to a phone booth and dialed 911. The local Sheriff’s department found the dead trucker and loaded the prostitute onto a stretcher. She had a bad case of whiplash and some vertebral damage to her neck. She described to them the two that had assaulted her. They fit the description of Rhiannon and the unknown vampire that was helping her. Gerald knew that they had to be hiding somewhere in the forested area north of the truck stop. He decided to scour the woods by day. Gerald’s idea was shared by the Sheriff’s department. At daybreak the forest was filled with deputies and bloodhounds. Rhiannon and Vincent were in an abandoned mineshaft this time, they had no choice, when the weakness came they were powerless against it. Vincent fought to stay awake. He could hear the baying of the hounds and the shouts of the deputies that sought them. Civilians joined the hunt and a news crew broadcast the events of the
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preceding night, interviewing deputies and civilians that had even the smallest bit of information.

The door to the lair burst open and officers swarmed inside. The sun was high in the noon sky and the Crows were asleep. Neighbors had complained about an odor coming from the house. Together they were slammed against the wall and searched thoroughly for weapons. Finding none, the officers began to handcuff the struggling vampires. Crystal felt a surge inside herself that she had never known and the officer cuffing her wrists suddenly burst into flame. Shocked by this sudden horrific sight, everyone froze except for Crystal. She turned to the rest of the officers, her dark hair blowing back from her face, her eyes blazing red. She reached out her arms and flame shot from her palms, igniting everyone in its path. The crows dove for cover while the officers rolled upon the floor, trying to put out the magical flames, but to no avail. Screams of agony filled the air and the crows hurried into another room, slamming the door behind them. Crystal made sure to ignite all of the lawmen. The strain of the power caused tears to stream down her face. The flames crawled up the walls and drapery and Crystal realized that she had to rescue her friends. The Crows exited the house, the sun making the escape almost unbearable. Todd opened the door to a squad car and turned the key, the
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engine roared to life and the rest of the crows piled into the vehicle. Crystal swooned from the intense drain of strength from what she had just done. They drove away from the burning house, squealing the tires across the driveway and down the street. They had been discovered, and barely escaped with their lives. They knew that they would be hunted.

Rhiannon and Vincent could not sleep. They had made a serious mistake in not killing the prostitute when they could. The baying of the bloodhounds seemed to be getting closer and closer by the minute. Vincent summoned up all of the power he had, but it was slightly hampered by the daytime. He planned to defend Rhiannon to his last breath. She sat back against the wall beside him, her hand on his knee. She had been his at last, all he had ever wanted. The centuries that he had lived seemed like nothing until he had first seen her. He put his arm around her and pulled her close, kissing her forehead, then her eyes.

The bloodhounds led the officers to an abandoned mine. Gerald had been following their search on his own. He knew that the only way to be sure that Rhiannon could be eliminated was by fire, and these deputies were not appropriately equipped for the job. A deputy stepped up to the opening and shined his flashlight into the interior. He slowly lowered himself down the
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small ladder that led down into the mine. Suddenly, without warning, he was dragged from the ladder at lightening speed. The rest of the deputies stood, frozen in horror as the deputy screamed several times, then was silent. The opening to the cave was only large enough for one person to go in at a time, and the two vampires inside had an advantage. Gerald stepped over to the Sheriff and nudged him.

“I have something that could solve this problem if you will trust me.” Gerald and a few deputies uncovered the stash of weapons in the back of his pickup. Gerald climbed into the bed and pulled away the top of the wooden box that housed one of the two rocket launchers. He handed it and a few missiles to the men. He took several grenades and stuffed them into a bag and they climbed back up to the mine. Vincent and Rhiannon tossed the remains of the mangled man that had invaded the mine into a closed tunnel toward the back of the main chamber. Vincent stood near the entrance, ready for the next human to try the same. None came, but they could smell several individuals standing around the entrance. Rhiannon began to think about the apparent hesitation on the part of the humans above. They must be planning a different measure of attack. She clasped Vincent’s shoulder and pulled him away from the entrance. “I think we should try to find another exit.”
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Vincent thought for a second, then agreed. They entered one of the larger tunnels leading from the main chamber, seeing in the darkness as clearly as day. The tunnel was long, but decreased in diameter as they went on until they had to crawl. They reached another opening and dropped from it into another large chamber. Rhiannon relaxed and sat against the wall below the opening. Vincent joined her and they sat together, wondering what the humans plans were plotting. Gerald set up the rocket launcher at the entrance of the mine, pointing it downward into the main chamber. He motioned for the other men to stand back and fired one missile into the mine. The rocket hit the floor and exploded. Flame shot out of the entrance, and Gerald dove for cover. The entrance to the mine held up, but they could hear stones falling inside the chamber. Gerald pulled the pin from a grenade and dropped it into the opening. After a couple of seconds it exploded and the entryway to the mine collapsed. A week later, some children gathered around the cavedin Mineshaft. Curiosity about the events of last week had intrigued the children enough to allay any fear. One child climbed down the ladder and they slowly began to remove stones from the caved-in entrance. After a couple hours of

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this, the children finally created an opening large enough to peek through. “Give me your flashlight, Vern!” The child at the bottom demanded, peering through the small hole. Suddenly, the child was yanked through the small hole, leaving a large amount of blood on the rocks of the tiny opening. The other children fled, screaming in terror.

Randy and Mike tried to rest after their fight with Vincent and Rhiannon, Randy's throat was healing, but very slowly. They were almost out of bullets after the melee. Somehow they sensed that someone else had done their job for them. They had failed on their mission. They knew that they should report back to the council, but were hesitant to do so. They did not know if they would be rewarded for their efforts or turned away.

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The Shadow of Rhiannon - Book Two – Persecution and War Chapter 6

Bound and gagged, the accused were herded into the church. People flung obscenities and accusations at the prisoners. The pastor shouted for silence and the noise slowly died. Television crews filed into the building and focused their cameras on the charged. “You have been accused of the state of vampirism,” The black-robed pastor stated, standing before the hapless prisoners. “You will be executed in this house of God. Confess to your crimes and your death will be a quick one.” One by one the prisoners were allowed to speak. Some pleaded for their lives, claiming innocence, only to be shouted down by the crowd. Others remained silent, having endured so much torture over the past week that they were unable to speak. A few stood and admitted to being vampires, their eyes wild with fear, wanting the torture to end. Then,

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one by one, with the camera crews documenting every moment, silver knives were slowly driven into their hearts. Only three of the ten accused actually died in the manner of the vampire, aging rapidly before the eyes of the onlookers and turning to dust. Those that had confessed were beheaded with a blessed sword. The reality of the seven innocents that died was irrelevant to the crowd, accepted as casualties of a holy war. Their bodies were taken away to a mass grave, nearly filled with the pitiful bodies of the wrongly slain. The families of those who were innocent had followed and now stood on the edge of the pit with tearstained faces, bidding farewell to those that they had erroneously

implicated. The police searched more homes. Protesting occupants were dragged from them and taken to the church.

Iron manacles had been added to the walls in the basement of the house of God. A pleading woman was chained there in full view of the others. She was to be an initial example to them of what was to take place there. The

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priest himself had volunteered to carry out the torture and interrogation. “Have you ever partaken of human blood?” He asked, not meeting her eyes, instead he arranged on a table various implements of torture. She responded by pleading with him again that she was innocent, her eyes wild with fear. She had been present when other people had been killed, and knew that her pleas would fall on deaf ears. The priest produced a knife and immersed it in a basin of holy water that stood by his side. He repeated the question, and not receiving a satisfactory answer, deftly seized her arm and cut through the soft flesh of its underside. She screamed in pain, causing the others to

flinch. Unwavering, the priest replaced the knife on the table and picked up a long ice pick. She cried uncontrollably now. The priest stood before her, his eyes stonily fixed, as if he were not seeing her but past her, into a great personal purpose. “Who else do you know that is an abomination to the Lord?” She did not respond this time and he plunged the pick into her midsection. She screamed again and swooned into a dead faint. The priest lifted her head for a moment,

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studying her face, then dropped it back. Two strong men unchained her from the wall and carried her away to another room to revive her. A man was brought forth this time; he refused to speak at all, knowing it would get him nowhere. A table with long legs was carried to his side and his right hand was placed upon it. Snapping a cuff around his wrist, the

priest began questioning him. One by one, the man’s fingers were chopped off, the blood flow halted by rolls of cotton. Suddenly, his eyes fixed in despair, the man agreed, yes, he was a vampire. The priest unlocked the cuff and the man was taken away. The imaginative holy man applied a different

torture to each new prisoner. Faces were cut, body parts sliced off, painful fluids were injected under skin, and flesh was shredded. The torture continued through the night until each prisoner had either fainted, or implicated themselves and others to be vampires. Their execution was set for the next day.

The Crows were forced to leave the city when the killing began. They left in the night, fleeing the madness that had

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gripped the public. They traveled through the darkness. The blonde-headed twins, Marilee and Jason brought up the rear. They always hung close to each other as if drawing strength from their sibling. Crystal hung close to her boyfriend, Todd. He looped a protective arm around her and they fell into their accustomed synchronized step. Shane, being the oldest and strongest of them, stayed slightly ahead of the rest. His keen senses picking up the slightest movement, sound, or scent. Crystal’s sister, Lauren, walked slightly behind him, lost in her thoughts. They had fed upon free roaming cattle along their path. Even though the blood was not as satisfying as human blood, they felt sated for the time being. Finding a derelict warehouse outside the city limits, the Crows stopped to rest and wait through the daylight hours. Unlike the myths of vampires that had endured for so many years, they were able to move about in the daytime. Their powers were only weakened by the daytime and the light was painful to their newly sensitive eyes. They knew that the relentless vampire hunters that had been elected by the

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people were pursuing them.

They unknowingly implicated

themselves by their flight from them. Todd and Shane entered the building first while the rest of the Crows waited outside. This was the first place that they found that did not look inhabited, but they had to be careful. The humans might have laid a trap here for them. Jason and Marilee were silent for once, their almond shaped green eyes gleaming in the darkness. After a few moments, Shane reemerged and gave the rest the signal that all was clear and they followed him inside. The sun was rising with golden streaks across the horizon and Crystal felt a pang of sadness at its beauty. The world around them had changed so

drastically, and she felt homesick. They found a place to lie down in the back of the building in some torn up insulation. Crystal crept close to Todd and they embraced. He held her close to his muscular body and they settled in for the day. The weakness overtook them and they slept. Crystal opened her eyes and started to speak, but Todd placed a hand over her mouth and shushed her. She sniffed the air and realized that the hunters had found them.

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Crystal could smell the blood running through their veins and grew hungry. Night had fallen and the others were also

awakening. Footsteps echoed through the warehouse and a flashlight beam searched the corners of their haven. Shane rose from the floor, a deep growling sound issued from his chest and his eyes flashed red in the darkness. “Get back against the wall.” Todd ordered the Crows and they could sense the growing excitement of the others. Crystal could tell now that there were four invaders. She

could sense their fear at having found them after dark. Shane and Todd advanced on the intruders, who were pitifully unaware that they were about to die. Crystal’s eyes quickly focused and the darkness became as light as day. Shane leapt upon the intruder closest to the door and quickly tore out his throat before the man could scream. The others seemed to sense that something was amiss and shone their lights around urgently, a beam found the Crows against the wall and the woman holding the flashlight shouted to the others that she had found them. Crystal felt her teeth extend and she attacked her. They struggled and

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Crystal struck her across the face with her right fist, shattering her cheekbone and nose. She screamed and Crystal felt arms encircle her ribs and drag her away from the injured woman. She gripped the wrist and snapped the offending left arm easily. Crystal was released as the hunter sank to the floor, moaning as he clutched his broken arm. She attacked the inert woman again, yanking her from the floor and sinking her teeth into her neck. As she weakly

fought, Crystal could sense the struggle all around her. She stopped drinking and found her sister, mentally inviting her to finish the woman off. She responded and Crystal glanced

around at the others, they were making short work of the vampire hunters. night air. She warily crept outside and sniffed the She spotted a

She did not sense any others.

pickup parked a short distance away and approached it. Turning her attention to the cab of the truck, she found that the keys were still in the ignition. Blood soaked her shirt and the pleasurable tingles against her skin distracted her from the vehicle. Crystal decided to reenter the warehouse for seconds.

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The crows fed on the hunters until the bodies were emptied. The others left the warehouse, letting Todd and Crystal have some time alone. They knelt face to face, tracing each other’s bodies with blood slickened fingertips, enjoying the moments of sensual pleasure they were giving to each other, their cares temporarily forgotten. They pressed their bodies together, rubbing the fresh blood between them, their breathing coming in quickened gasps. Their lips met and Crystal ran her tongue over his lips, then his sharp teeth. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he

pushed her down to the floor and removed what little was left of her clothing and his own. Spent, but not tired, Todd and Crystal stripped new clothing off the bodies for themselves. Crystal marveled to herself briefly at the callousness she had achieved about humans, wondering if it was their fault or her own. Pulling boots from the woman she attacked, it suddenly became clear to her. She was now a predator, to survive, she had to put thoughts of the plight of the prey out of her head. After all, does the wolf cry over the slain rabbit?

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Todd and Crystal left the warehouse and joined the others, who were patiently waiting at the truck. They heaped slightly damaged clothing into the cab. They had

transportation now. They made use of every part of our prey, never wasting anything. So had Rhiannon taught them. They often wished she had stayed. The Council gathered in the temple of Lilith. The recent events lent an air of urgency and seriousness. Aviona sat in the seat once occupied by the treasonous Vincent. She had

been elected to the V-Council of the Ancients when he freed Rhiannon and left his position to assist her. Serene sat in the position of the high priestess of the Council. For the time being, her word was the law. She always kept a black hooded robe over her body and much of her red hair. To her right sat Clive, the master of assassins, he was heavily muscled, his bulging arms straining the fabric of the red robe he was accustomed to wearing at all times. His duties were to initiate, train, and appoint hired vampires to carry out the darker works of the Council. To her left sat the Sorcerer and Sorceress, Josephala and Minx. The panel of advisors took the

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seats alongside the strategy table. These were Aviona, Malachi, DC, and Jerichon.

Serene spoke first, as was the custom, her resounding voice echoing through the great hall. “In light of the recent events, we must decide what is to be done with the humans. It is far too late to bring back the comfort of secrecy that we have accomplished through the past century. Even now, the paranoia of the human race is decimating our numbers and action must be taken to insure our survival.” The members of the council shifted uncomfortably, each recalling their personal experiences with the persecution in the times before the great veiling. Malachi stood and bowed slightly to Serene. “We must fight back. The threat of our extinction is imminent. We can turn the tide of these events. We are stronger, faster and more powerful, but their numbers are greater. It is well known that the humans have long been fascinated by the myths and legends of our kind. We can use this fascination against them.”

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Aviona spoke quietly, as was her habit. The others leaned forward slightly to hear her. “Most of their myths of us are based in fact. I see accuracy in their methods of execution.” Malachi snorted non-commitally. “They are ignorant of our power, their fairy tales of us are inaccurate. With the proper strategy we can overcome them.” Serene nodded. The high council joined the advisors at the strategy table and together, they began to plan their course of action. There was great anger in the hearts of the Council still from the awakening of the American public to their presence. The memory of Rhiannon’s capture and

subsequent release by the treasonous Vincent remained fresh in their minds. Clive entered the arms chamber. The assassins were gathered there, awaiting their orders. The Master Assassins, Keokuk, Drake, Drago, Devin, Amos, Blake, Reese and Simone stood to the forefront, wearing the robes of their standing. Keokuk, who had been one of the two only

surviving assassins that was sent after the treasonous

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Vincent and Rhiannon had gained a truly authorative position. His chiseled, hawk like features did little to betray the apprehension that he and all of the gathered assassins were feeling. For nearly a century, they had carried out the law enforcement edge of the V-Council. They knew that the situation was grave. It was not often that they were all called into one place at the same time. Clive greeted them with a nod, and they grouped around a long table. Methodically, he laid out the plans that changed the world forever.

The Crows arrived at the limits of a small town. The night was already halfway over and they were hungry. From the hilltop they could see lights on in the houses of the townspeople. Armed guards patrolled the streets. They

silently filed down the hillside, one purpose bonding them: they had to feed. The town was obviously on the alert, but not from them. They feared someone else. Scenting the air, Crystal realized that they were not the only vampires in the vicinity. The scent was faint, as if it was coming from several miles distant. This was what these people feared. She

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mentally sent this message to the others and they stopped, scenting the air with her. Shane and Todd stood close

together, quietly talking. Crystal drew closer to them to hear what they were saying. “It would be dangerous to feed here.” “But we must have it.” “They are watching for something, we may have to move on.” “This is the only civilization for miles.” “If there are more vampires in the area, we may be able to find them and join them.” “What if they are not friendly?" “That is a chance we will have to take.”

They altered our course down the hill and followed the scent of the others. The hunger grew inside as they began to pass the town, but they did not stop. The scent became

stronger as they reached the opposite city limits, and soon they spotted high jagged cliffs. The scent drew them to a cave. The Crows stopped, unsure of how to proceed, having

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not seen other vampires since they were taken prisoner by the assassins of the Council and held in the temple for interrogation about Rhiannon. They did not have long to wait, however. A figure appeared in the opening of the cave and motioned for them to come closer. As they drew nearer they could see that there were others inside the cave. Crystal counted six visible figures. They began to leave the cave as the Crows approached and they silently sized each other up. “What are you doing around here?” The first one asked. He eyed the Crows skeptically. Shane pushed his way forward to face him. “We came to feed, but it is obviously not possible, is that your doing?” “We were sent to bring some of the people from the town back to the rest of our band. We are hungry too. We were caught in one of the houses that we went to and we barely escaped with those you see here. The townspeople still have five of our party, and they are going to execute them.”

They were silent for a moment, remembering the actions of the humans in their hometown.

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“Are you going to try to rescue the prisoners?” “That is what we were discussing until you came. We could use your help.” The Crows joined them in the cave, quietly discussing options and plotting a rescue.

Daylight came and they slept in the cave, fear gripped them as the weakness came. They knew that they would be interrogating the captives and that would take some time. What they feared was that they would be found in the cave by the humans and terminated in their sleep. They decided to take turns watching over the group. Crystal was awakened by one of the other party members who immediately fell asleep. The light hurt her eyes. She pulled a pair of sunglasses from her jacket pocket and staggered to the cave’s entrance. She uncomfortably gazed out across the colorful countryside. The sun hung high in the sky and she shifted irritably in its heat. The afternoon wore on and the sun began to sink on the western side of the horizon and Crystal decided to give one

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of the others a turn. She crept into the cave once more and awakened Jason. He faded in and out of consciousness for a few moments, then rose and stumbled to the entrance. She curled up beside Todd and thankfully sank into

unconsciousness. Shane dreamt for the first time he could remember in weeks. As if time had run backwards in his mind the image of Rhiannon materialized before him, as she had been when he had first seen her. She had seemed to carry with her an aura of pure darkness, seductive shadowy beauty surrounded her that burned her image into his memory and assured that her would never see another woman with the same attraction ever again. Completely uninhibited, she called out to him

and aroused him like he had never been excited before. Her hypnotic, crystal clear blue eyes and black hair made her truly unique from anyone in his life. His mind slowly moved forward, recalling his experience with her that led to his rebirth.

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She was following him, discreetly enough that no one but him noticed. He would turn from time to time and catch a glimpse of her tall, lovely form before the air around her shimmered and she was gone again. His job search had turned into a cat and mouse game with him as the prey, but he felt no fear, felt no threat from her, only a growing anticipation of his own capture. Evening had come with her appearance and with the night air he felt her power over him growing stronger. He did not know what she wanted, but he certainly knew what he desired from her, and he knew he would get it.

Rhiannon followed closely behind the young man that drew her attention. She read in his subconscious mind that which he wanted, and she was more than willing to give it to him. She felt no inclination to slay him, but to take him and show him what true power could be. He was aware of her presence, that was obvious, so she let him feel her attentions. She just had to be with him alone. He was as blonde as Vincent, his hair hanging in waves over his

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youthfully wide shoulders and neck, and she longed deeply for a taste of his flesh. She began to sense that he was

heading for his home at last and she began to feel an ache that was from more than the emptiness of her appetite. She began to call out to him mentally, preparing him for what he would experience in her arms. He stopped once again, looking her way. This time she did not cloak herself, but approached him, passion filling her eyes. She could smell the sudden sweat that broke out over his body and the hunger took her. She resisted the

temptation to exert any kind of mental control over him, needing him awake and responsive. He turned, halfway expecting her to vanish again, but she did not this time. Instead she stepped forward and he could see that she wanted him. The secrecy was gone and he suddenly realized what and who she was. Strangely, he felt no fear, somehow knowing that she would not treat him the same as she had those that he had seen on the news. She moved closer to him and rubbed her body upon his, nuzzling his face and hair with the affection of an animal. A shudder ran through his

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body and he felt himself become excited.

She licked his

neck with the tip of her tongue and he took her hand in his own. He led her into the building. Without a word he unlocked the door and they slipped into his apartment. Unlike the myths he had known about her kind, she was warm and more alive to his touch than any female he had ever been with. Within seconds their clothing littered the floor and his desire increased with an obsessive need to experience her. She tasted so sweet that he lost all thought but a deep desire to please her. He kissed the skin of her throat, then moved back up to her soft lips and she opened her mouth for him. He suddenly felt her sharp eyeteeth with the tip of his tongue. They made love until he was almost exhausted. She then sank her teeth into his neck. Brilliant color exploded in his mind with the most erotic sensations he had ever experienced. He weakened slowly and as he reached the point of death with a smile upon his lips, she rolled him onto his back and slashed her wrist with a long fingernail. She opened his mouth and let the blood drain from her wrist down his throat. He swallowed weakly and

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then drank deeply. Strength returned to his body and she removed her wrist from his grasp. Jason awoke them at dusk, they rose slowly, stretching and taking deep breaths of the nighttime air, Shane, however, remained asleep, a smile on his lips as if he were clinging to an intoxicating dream. As such feelings were in short supply, they let him sleep a few moments longer before rousing him and getting on their way. He strode boldly,

seemingly lost in thought, but more powerful in conviction. In the guise of birds the messengers flew to the outposts of the vampire warlords. Driven from the cities they hunted, the

reborn were gathering in the lesser temples to await the orders of the V-Council.

They had sent a hunting party to gather fresh sustenance from the nearby town, but the group had not yet returned. Darkness fell once again. Vampires from the temple spread out across the countryside, falling upon roaming cattle for precious blood. Only a few remained at

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the outpost. A large black raven lighted on top of a broken chimney and, warbling softly, hopped down to the floor before Warlord Csyrus Reinholdt. The air around the bird shimmered briefly and from it’s place rose a tall, slender vampire with shoulder length black hair. Csyrus greeted him with a nod. “What are the Council’s orders?” “Call back your strays, and gather your strongest in the temple. I must be heard by all that rest here.” “As you wish.” The Crows knew that they would feed soon, and the thought lifted their spirits. They turned toward the town with their new comrades. They shape shifted when they reached the town limits. In the form of wolves they crept into the streets. They were one in their thoughts, knowing what each and every one of them was feeling. The streets were deserted; all lights were out except for the church where they knew the townspeople

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were gathered. The tall stained glass windows shone in the night.

They

quickly

surrounded

the

building,

stationing

themselves at the windows. From inside they could hear the shouts of the humans, they could smell their blood and they grew hungry again.

The Shadow of Rhiannon Chapter 7

The priest stood before the bound captives. Reciting the Lord’s Prayer, he sprinkled holy water on them. Seeing that it did not burn them, he faltered momentarily, then regained his composure. “Spawn of Satan, thou art the filth of all that is evil in this world. Your crimes against humanity condemn you too the bowels of hell when you depart this earth. Beg for forgiveness and the almighty may save your souls. ”Turning, the priest took a bundle from the alter. He slowly

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unrolled it and produced seven long silver daggers. He motioned to a group of men standing apart from the crowd and they hauled one of the vampires to her feet. “I am ready to accept your confession.” The priest stated, glowering at her. She remained silent and smiled broadly, exposing long, pointed fangs. The priest raised the dagger and was about to plunge it into her heart when the sound of shattering glass stopped him. Now there were twelve wolves in the church,

surrounding the frightened crowd. Before the priest could react, the hand holding the dagger was gone, ripped from his arm by a large black wolf. He fell to the floor, and was immediately seized by the animal, his shrieks turning to gurgling sounds as he choked on blood. The others leapt

upon other members of the flock, ripping them apart with lightning speed. Guns were drawn and fired, striking furry

bodies with little effect, only causing the wolves to falter momentarily. In a panic, several people rushed to the closed door, trampling several hapless individuals that fell under the crush of bodies. More gunshots were heard and one wolf

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yelped in agony as a bullet penetrated it’s skull, immediately transforming into human form, then dust as death took it. The prisoners crouched against the back wall to avoid the carnage. More humans were rent from limb to limb, the floor becoming slick with blood.

The door was finally flung open and people spilled into the street, bleeding from severe lacerations. Bruised and

broken, survivors collapsed to the ground, weeping from terror. Others ran for their homes, not caring what was

transpiring in the church.

The church was now deserted of mobile humans. Numerous bodies littered the floor alongside their

dismembered parts. The wolves had regained their vampire forms and were drinking from some of those still clinging to life. They had freed the prisoners and they joined the others in the feast. The vampire that had been shot was one of the other group that the Crows had met. They finished with satisfied appetites and prepared to leave the church.

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The others led the Crows to the outpost. It was nothing more than an abandoned schoolhouse. Most of the roof was missing. From the middle of the building stood a blackened fireplace with a tall chimney jutting high into the air. They entered the encampment with a sense of pride in their accomplishments, but an uncertainty of how they would be received nagged at their minds. The Crows did not have to tell them what they had done, however. They knew by reading their thoughts. They were welcomed warmly and led into the schoolhouse. The town was weakened now, and the remaining citizens would provide proper nourishment for the encampment. They had to strike again immediately.

Doors were locked and windows closed as frightened humans retreated to their homes, their minds numbed by the slaughter they had witnessed. The half moon shone

overhead as the silent deserted streets waited for another onslaught. A large flock of crows hovered overhead, then

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settled onto the empty streets. They took strategic places throughout the town and the second attack began. Screams and gunshots echoed through the night as the houses were broken into and the families were fed upon. In an uncontrollable lust for blood the vampires rushed from dwelling to dwelling, massacring all that carried the scent of life. Following orders given by the council, those of the vampires that had their fill heaped guns of all kinds in the town square. As the moon sank lower into the west, supplies and weapons were loaded into vehicles and they left a decimated, corpse-filled community behind.

The closest city was known as Jackson Hole, in Wyoming. Following the Council’s elaborate plans, the vampires waited until dusk and spread out through the city. The streets were moderately populated, and they blended in nicely. They found homes in key locations throughout the town, and, in the form of luminescent mist, infiltrated the dwellings. In each house, they drained one family member. When finished, they returned to the caves in the cliffs outside

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the city. The following night the “sick” individuals were possessed by the insane bloodlust of the newly reborn, slaughtering their families and taking to the streets to kill more. Chaos reigned in the city of Jackson Hole and the vampires watched from the cliff sides, admiring their handiwork. In one night the population of the city was The tall slender messenger was

decreased by two-thirds.

dispatched to bring news of the victory to the V-Council.

Morning came to the city of Jackson Hole with blood red streaks across the sky, seemingly mirroring the blood spilled in the preceding night’s massacre. Kate Tristan huddled with her three children in an upstairs bedroom. Jake had gone to help out with the gathering of the dead in the city. She had begged him not to go, wanting to leave before another night came, but he was convinced that they could resume their normal lives if he helped stop the second wave of attack by burning the bodies of those killed in the night before. Any and all of the dead could reawaken and become killers. He had left with the promise that he would work quickly and the

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dead would be burned before the day was over.

Her

youngest, Jimmy, dominated her lap while Olivia and Alissa leaned against her from both sides, their eyes wide with fear. Their home had become a battlefield in which their parents had fought to save them from friends and neighbors, and worse yet, their older brother, Eric. He had fallen

mysteriously ill one morning and later, appeared to die in his bed. Nightfall had come and seconds after he died, he had attacked them with insanity in his eyes. Their father had dragged the teenager out to the street to get him under control only to find rampaging vampires had taken over the city, killing at will. Though they had started in the early morning hours, the extrication of the dead from the families of the city was a time consuming task. Corpses had to be dragged from the clinging arms of grieving women and children and heaped in the center of the city. The day dragged on and Jake began to wonder if the dead put on weight after death.

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Fatigue took him several times and he had to take frequent breaks to recuperate. His truck needed refills of gasoline

often, but that was no problem as gas suddenly was free for the taking. Afternoon came and nearly all the dead had been collected. The men began suffering from shock, having seen so many corpses that had once been their friends and neighbors ripped apart and nearly unrecognizable. The air stank with decomposition and many of the homes made Jake gag upon entry. Each house and business was a new horrifying vision that could never be erased from his mind. Finally, all the dead were gathered and it was time to set them ablaze. The sun sank low on the western horizon and it was realized that haste was necessary. Wood and tinder was stacked around the heap and gasoline was splashed upon it. Jake watched with ever-growing fear and anxiety as the sun sank lower and lower and the sky began to darken. Torches were lit and the fire was started. Flame crawled slowly up the pile. Clothes caught fire, then flesh. The smell was

overpowering as black smoke rose in thick clouds from the bodies. A corpse near the top began to twitch violently,

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alarming the men, but they stood their ground in suspense, almost unable to breathe. More of the bodies began to move, and suddenly the pile became an animated, twitching, sizzling scene from a nightmare. The rebirth began before the eyes of the men and Jake found himself paralyzed with fear. The reborn vampires screamed in agony as they realized that their melting flesh was dripping from their bodies, blue and orange flame blackening them. Over the smell of their burning flesh, however, they began to smell the blood of the mortals present, and the bloodlust began. Jake was freed from his paralysis and he turned and fled the fireside, closely pursued by two flaming ghouls. His truck, luckily, was parked nearby and he turned his feet toward it. The short distance began to stretch before him like out of some sort of distorted dream. Then suddenly, he reached

the driver’s side door and flung it open, climbing in, he slammed it shut, snapping a blackened hand off onto his lap. He sat for a moment, shocked, then threw it to the passenger side floor. A huge bang attracted his attention to the hood of the truck and he saw that one of the burning vampires had

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leapt upon it, its face only a couple feet from his own. Jake watched in horror as it’s eyes exploded and it reared back with one fist in an attempt to punch through the windshield. He threw the truck into reverse and backed up, sending the vampire tumbling from the hood. Driving forward to crunch its bones beneath his tires, he got a view of what was going on at the fire. Some of the monsters had put their bodies out and were feeding on the limp men. Still others lay upon the ground, the fire having consumed their entire bodies, leaving smoking bones. Men lay burning on the pavement, their

throats torn out. The entire scene was just too much for Jake to cope with, so he threw his truck into gear and squealed his tires in the direction of his home and family.

The U.S. Military had moved into action much sooner than the vampires anticipated. Their outposts had been bombed with non-nuclear explosives by their aircraft. They feared using nuclear or atomic bombs because the vampires existed

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on American soil. The threat of the undead armies was not taken seriously enough to take such drastic action yet. The Crows joined the masses of vampire armies gathered outside all the military bases in the country. It was known that they were there. Aircraft flew overhead, sending bullets into their midst, but causing little damage to their numbers. One sixth of the hordes dropped, temporarily wounded or dead with head injury. They

advanced upon the bases, slaughtering troops in hand-tohand combat. The vampires had guns of their own, taken

from the towns they had wiped out. They almost forgot to use them in their desire for carnage. The soldier’s bullets

destroyed more of them, but that mattered little to them in their bloodlust. They had made a grievous error in engaging the vampires on their level; they were unable to wipe them out with more explosives because of the mingling of their troops with those of the undead. Their well-trained discipline was lost in the terror of engaging undead enemies. The vampires had the upper hand in physical force plus modern weaponry. Tanks roared into their midst, crushing some of

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them but still having little effect. A second wave of soldiers rose from the barricaded lines. This time they were able to drive the them back temporarily. The vampires responded with increased excitement like wolves in a pen of cattle. As the number of living soldiers decreased their commanders decided to begin bombing again with non-nuclear missiles. The vampires knew it was time to retreat almost

simultaneously. They transformed into beasts and flights of black birds and scattered before the bombing could do any real damage to their numbers. The battlefield became still once more, covered with huge numbers of shredded and dismembered bodies, most of them unrecognizable as being human. Blood soaked into the earth and a great silence descended, only interrupted by scavengers that came to pick at the remains of the battle.

The Temple of Lilith lay in ruins, the charred bodies of a few assassins lay amongst the destruction. Human soldiers scoured the wreckage for any sign of life. A blackened

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vampire stirred briefly and was shot in the head by one of the men. Considering their job complete, the soldiers climbed into a waiting Jeep and were gone. A stealth bomber that appeared before them had sent a missile into the temple, destroying it completely. The V-Council however had not been present when the blast occurred.

A raven sat on the branch of a nearby tree and watched the scene. Warbling softly to itself, it took flight to bring news of the destruction of the Sacred Temple to the Council members. No place was safe from the humans. Reinforcements had arrived, and the battle resumed. This time the vampires overwhelmed the exhausted human soldiers. They invaded the base, killing officers and non-military personnel. Pilots scrambled for their planes, but were overtaken. Vampires drank in a feeding frenzy, having not fed since the preceding battle. Bodies littered the floors. They scented the air and found all that hid from them. All propriety was forgotten in the need to drink. Marilee and Jason hung close together, feeding off the same individuals at the same time. Crystal smiled wryly to herself, “Share and share alike.” she

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thought. Lauren, as she had been in her previous life as a human, was a formidable fighter. She had never been one to use female catfight techniques, but truly damaging blows and calculated defense tactics. The battle was exhilarating. She fed little, ignoring her hunger and concentrating on inflicting as much damage as possible on the enemy. Bullets pierced her body and one zinged through her blonde hair, grazing her skull. She rushed the soldier that had made the near miss and struck his jaw with an uppercut that shattered his teeth. As he went down she brought one knee to his chest and smashed the center of his rib cage at the sternum. She prepared to rip out his neck but was interrupted by the butt of a rifle slamming into her head from behind. She felt an instant of pain, but was lucid again in a flash. She whirled on the man who had struck her and with a swift low pivot, swept his legs from under him. He fell, striking his head on the concrete floor and was knocked unconscious. She decided to feed on this one. Rolling his head to the side, she sank her teeth into the muscle in the side of his neck and began to drink. She could feel her painful hunger fade slowly from her body as the life-giving liquid poured down her throat. She was too enveloped in the pleasure of feeding to notice that the soldier she had previously assaulted was not quite dead. He struggled to his knees and crawled to her side, pressing the muzzle of a .45 to the side of her head. He squeezed the trigger and blew away the back of her skull. She collapsed on top of the soldier she had been feeding upon, then
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degraded to dust. Unable to withstand the pain in his chest any longer, the man pressed the muzzle of the gun to his own head and squeezed the trigger one last time.

Crystal lost Todd in the melee, but she was sure that he was okay. When the siege was finally over, they burned the entire base as the Council had instructed them. The humans must not be able to retake an operative base, and they knew nothing of the procedures of controlling their equipment, so it was worthless to them. The vampires returned to their encampment around midnight, feeling rejuvenated by their contact with human blood. As the others rested Crystal

began to search the group for her friends. She found Todd and they looked together. After a time they found the twins, Marilee and Jason. Shane had also survived, having been

promoted to the small group of vampires that were in the process of planning the next battle. Lauren was nowhere to be found, however. They had to assume the worst; the

probability of her death was high, as they had lost many in

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the taking of the base. Todd and Crystal stood together for a moment, and he held her as she cried for her sister’s death, the victory forgotten for the moment. Todd smoothed her

black hair back from her eyes and brushed away a tear that was running down her nose. “This is war,” He spoke, looking into her eyes, ”we were bound to lose someone.”

The Council members traveled individually to the separate larger masses of the vampiric armies, steps needed to be taken before circumstances got too out of hand. The domination of America was almost complete, but the possibilities of catastrophic events were foreseen. The slaughter would have to be stayed for the time being, before the numbers of vampires grew too large and they would begin to kill each other for human blood, which had grown more precious with each coming week. Steps had to be taken to insure survival. Weakened by loss of blood, survivors of the siege of Los Angeles lay exhausted in their prison. Many prisoners

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lingered near death, and the vampires were still hungry. Crystal stood outside one of the cages and gazed at the humans, the only way to save many of them was to give them the dark gift, but the Council’s Advisor had instructed the lesser vampires not to create any more reborns. Already fights were breaking out over whoms turn it was to feed and dissatisfaction filled the atmosphere of the camp. Crystal

could not help but pity the humans, she remembered what it was like to be one and knew that they must be in pain from the numerous bleeding bites that covered their bodies. One caught her eye and threw a stone weakly in her direction, cursing her for her agony. Crystal turned away, unable to

bear the sight anymore. She had refused to feed, along with some of those that were more sensitive to the plight of the humans. It was daylight and Crystal knew that she must

rest, but paranoia of the other vampires had taken hold of her. She did not know if she would awaken again. Crystal watched over the sleep of her friends, they had rejoined again following the loss of Lauren. They slept restlessly inside a once fine

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home in the city of Los Angeles. The floor was now soaked in places with drying blood, and the windows were broken. The electricity was off and the heat of the day was bothersome to their cool blood. The Crows had cleared out the bodies that morning, which had been taken away in a pickup to a mass grave originally meant for the wrongly accused mortals that had been killed by their families and friends, having been mistaken for vampires. Crystal stood in a doorway watching Todd sleep for a moment, then she returned to her post in the living room, gazing at the street through a window, intending to let the others sleep until dark.

Waiting there, her eyes hurting from the sunlight, she began to remember their validation. She smiled to herself, recalling the foolish ways she had known. Dressing all in

black, paying money to purchase false fangs and contact lenses. At one time she regularly wore white face makeup to become what she had always wished to be. The romance and intrigue of the charismatic vampire had her in it’s spell, but

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she did not truly believe that such beings existed. All of the crows were drawn to each other in a common desire; they wanted to be the undead, the stalkers of the night, and the drinkers of living blood. They had shunned normalcy and the commonplace ways of society. They had even gone so far as to cut each other with razor blades for a taste of blood. Then she came. It was as if she knew the desire in their souls. They had seen stories in the media about her, but at the time they thought it was all just hype about an escaped serial killer. At first they were wary of her, but her dark beauty and strength intrigued them. Her hypnotic eyes drained away their fear and they welcomed her into their world. They hid her in an abandoned house near their homes and visited her often, sometimes alone, other times in groups. They were soon

aware that she was the real thing and that made the attraction all the stronger. The crows arranged an all-night inquiry with her, sneaking from their parent’s homes in the middle of the night. She told them of her encounter with

Vincent, who transformed her. She had had no choice but to kill again and again to slake her undying thirst. Mentally, she

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posed a question to each of them, would they join her in her power or leave her in peace. She vowed that she would not kill them, as they were the only kindness she had known in years. They agreed with her, communicating their own

desire for power in their silence. Then, over the next few days, they had come to her, on by one, and she changed their lives forever. They helped each other through the bloodlust of their rebirth, bringing to each reborn a victim, disposing of the bodies after the initial feeding. Rhiannon had told them that the myths of being

destroyed by crosses, holy water, and sunlight were false, the fables of a misinformed society. They felt great

weakness in the sun, but were able to go about their lives as usual. Rhiannon then disappeared, and behind her came

another, a tall blonde man with the eyes of a wolf, Vincent. He had been following her, and merely wanted to know if she had come their way. He sensed that they knew her. He went on his way, leaving them with the warning that there would be others, and to watch for them.

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He was right, two assassins of something he had called the Council found and took them prisoner. They vanished from their homes without a trace and were taken to an abandoned church that the assassins called the Temple of Lilith. The VCouncil was stern, unwavering characters, obviously of great age. They were interrogated about Rhiannon, given a set of rules to live by and warned that, if they did not comply with these rules, they would be destroyed. The Crows were then released.

The saga of Rhiannon continued, highly publicized by the media. She was eventually trapped and killed by the

police. The tall blonde vampire was destroyed with her, being portrayed as her lover. The rest was history. Night finally

came. The others awakened, interrupting Crystal’s musings. They knew that they must hunt for fresh blood, the human prisoners being so close to death that even the loss of a pint of blood would end their usefulness to the vampires. The

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crows set out to scour the night, knowing that there must be more out there.

Mike and Randall Schmidt hung closely outside the enclosure that held the humans eyeing the black-cloaked guard that stood by its doorway. They were hungry, and the Council-appointed had imposed an iron will to only let a few pass into the pen. They were obviously not among the few. They knew he could read their minds if they stayed within a 20 foot radius of him, so they mutually agreed to back off for a while. The guard scowled at them, knowing that something was up, but held his ground.

Randy trudged across a nearby street with Mike following a short distance behind. The resemblance between the two made it obvious that they were brothers, sharing the same long dark hair and glowering green eyes. They entered an alleyway and Randy lit a cigarette, a habit left over from his human years. Leaning against a wall, his eyes flashed red

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in the darkness. Mike joined him and they glanced around, making sure they were alone.

“We have a right to feed too.” Mike muttered, clenching and unclenching his right hand nervously, digging the long nails into the palm. “Why aren’t we allowed to go in?” Randy shifted from his right to his left boot and took a long drag off the cigarette. Mike hated the way his brother made these long pauses before answering his questions, but waited patiently, trying to relax his muscles.

“We have to take turns, and ours isn’t until daylight. These damn rules came straight from the top. It’s supposed to help keep order or some shit like that.”

Mike gazed back across the street, his eyes glinting like his brother’s, “There is only one guard, we could take him.” “Just what I was thinking,” Randy smiled wickedly, “If we take him down we could finish off one each before anyone can stop us.”

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The stern guard watched the two vampires he had observed earlier approach warily, searching their minds for their motives. They had thrown up a crude wall around their thoughts, but he could guess pretty well what they were planning. He unsnapped the strap from his shoulder

holstered .45 and waited for them to make the first move. They had no guns, but because there were two of them and they nearly matched him in size and weight, they were a force to be reckoned with. They were ready to fight for a

taste of the prisoners, carrying long knives they had stolen. The guard did not realize that his immortality was seconds from ending. “Last chance, big guy. What do you say, let us in and you can walk away from here.” Randy thumbed the edge of his blade, feeling adrenaline already rushing through his body. “I have my orders, you will wait until morning.” Randy moved quickly, but the guard was quicker. He drew the .45 and fired at the blur of movement the smaller vampire had become. Mike leapt upon him with the agility of

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a cat, yanking his arm upward and backward. Tendon ripped from bone and the guard screamed. Randy slashed at his throat, opening a ragged cut from collarbone to ear. The guard went down, black blood spurting from his neck. They turned their attention upon the prisoners, who, witnessing the entire melee, had retreated to the far side of the pen. Opening the gate, they quickly chose their prey. A young

woman saw one of the vampires advancing on her and tried to climb the fencing, only to be dragged to the ground by the monster, who held her arms over her head and sank his teeth into her underarm. Mike slammed another woman into the mesh and bit into the flesh of her neck. By now more vampires had realized that the guard was gone and swarmed into the pen, fighting over the hapless humans.

A half moon loomed overhead, providing the only light. The crows did not necessarily need the illumination, but something about moonlight energized them. The desert

stretched out before them, dotted here and there by sagebrush. After a time they spotted a small gas station and

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convenience store, it’s windows broken and two wrecked cars occupied its parking lot. Hoping to find fresh blood, they decided to check it out. Scenting the air, they caught a whiff of living flesh. Crystal and Todd approached a car and found it to only be occupied with two corpses, a man and a woman, their throats torn out and their faces distorted with their final screams. The other car was empty. Turning to the building, the crows followed the fragrance of life through a broken window after finding the doors locked. The floor was littered with broken bottles from the refrigeration units and another body lay across the counter, it’s head almost ripped from its neck with a gaping wound. The scent of life came from a closed door marked with a sign that said “Employees Only”. They approached the door cautiously; knowing that whoever was in there was likely to be armed. Shane motioned for the rest to hold back and kicked the door down. They entered the room in time to see two teenagers break out the window above a large desk. Scrambling to climb out, one cut her arm on the jagged glass. Marilee was across the room in a flash and seized the injured female, throwing her to the floor. Todd

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and Crystal were on the male in a millisecond, dragging him from the window. Blood sprayed from the girl’s underarm as Marilee sank her teeth into the big vein located there, splattering Jason, who joined his twin in feeding. As the girl’s screams got weaker Todd and Crystal followed Jason and Marilee’s example on the boy. Shane hung back, stifling his hunger, his eyes glowing red in the darkness. Soon the

teenagers were dead, and they were only partially sated. The Crows exited the building and found themselves facing another small group of male vampires with shaved heads. One leveled a crossbow at them and asked if they had fed. “There were only two alive inside. The others were already dead.” Crystal replied. “You will have to look somewhere else.” The one with the crossbow motioned to the others and the Crows were quickly surrounded, their eyes glinted in the darkness. They were ready to fight. “Looks like we have some competition to eliminate.”

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Strong arms seized Crystal and she was tossed against the wall. The offender lunged at her with a large knife, but was knocked from his feet by Todd, who sent him tumbling into a broken glass window. Shards pierced his body in several places. The leader shot an arrow into Shane’s stomach and hurriedly attempted to reload the weapon. His temporary distraction proved fatal as Shane pulled the arrow from his abdomen and, pinning the other vampire, shoved it into his temple. Turning, Crystal spotted several of the others forcing Marilee to the ground and stabbing her repeatedly in the chest. She leapt upon one of them and snapped his head around backward. He fell back, still alive, but extremely disoriented by the new perspective. Marilee screamed and was still, her struggling ceased. The Crows attacked the others as one; using their teeth and their own weapons, rage at Marilee’s death berserking them. Soon they were all

smoking corpses, decaying instantly as death took them. The Crow’s lacerations healed in seconds, but their hearts were heavy with this new tragedy. Jason sat beside his sister’s

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body, watching in horror as she was reduced to bones before his eyes.

The sun rose with golden waves of clouds that filled the sky, the beauty of it was distracting from the new problem they were faced with, but only temporarily. The new threat from their own kind was troubling; as was the knowledge that prey was reduced to almost nil. Jason lagged behind; silent with emptiness in his heart he had never known before. The Crows silently agreed not to go back to the encampment. The competition for prey would be the same as they had experienced at the gas station. They did not wish to fight their own kind, the same vampires they had fought side by side with in their struggle against the human threat. Now they had a new objective, bring the news of the new problems to the council. The Crows knew that they would know what to do. A small band of dark-cloaked figures walked along the highway, ignoring the rising sun. Serene led the way, as was customary when the council traveled. There had been no

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word

for

days

concerning

the

state

of the

vampiric

population, but Minx had been scrying as she walked. Holding the cobalt crystal sphere in her hands, she gazed into its depths, a troubled expression on her face. The other ancients knew better than to press her for a description of the visions she was receiving until she was ready to inform them herself; to interrupt would result in the visions stopping and a complete memory loss. The sorcerer walked beside her, one hand on her shoulder to guide her footsteps. Josephala had done work to make their small group invisible to the mortals; they could only be seen by other vampires. Minx lifted her gaze from the sphere and ceased walking. Josephala noticed this and called for the other members of the council to stop also. Minx’s large liquid blue eyes held the others in thrall.

“The problems we foresaw are coming to be, the fighters are turning on each other in fatal combat.” Serene stood silently for a moment while the other ancients awaited her response. After a few moments she spoke.

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“Clive, gather your assassins. I have new orders for them.” The air shimmered around the tall warlord and in his place hovered a black hawk. With strong wing beats he took to the air and soared upward, riding warm air currents until he was high in the wind. Turning, he flew to the east. The other ancients watched him disappear over the mountaintops, then resumed their course. The Crows were resting under a freeway overpass when a large black hawk fluttered to rest atop a nearby tree. Their senses told us that this was no ordinary bird, this was a vampire. Shane rose and pulled from his belt a large dagger that he had taken off one of the vampires that had attacked them. The hawk hopped to the ground and stretched its wings out from its body. A tall, dark vampire rose from it, morphing slowly as he regarded us with stern eyes. The

crows recognized one of the V-council members immediately and Shane lowered the dagger. “Why are you hostile?” Clive spoke angrily, shaking the last of the feathers from his arms, which disappeared into his

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flesh. A robe appeared around his muscular body and he lowered the hood. “We were attacked by other gifted ones a few days ago, warlord. Forgive us, we did not recognize you.” Crystal spoke. “We lost one of our own.” The warlord’s expression softened. He glanced around. “Are those that attacked you nearby?” “No, we had to kill them to defend ourselves.” “You killed other Vampires?” “We had no choice.” His eyes studied them carefully, searching their minds for signs of falsehood. Satisfied with the answer they gave him, he motioned them to come closer. “You will come with me to Utah. The council is awaiting my return. We will decide what to do with you when we arrive.” Clive and the assassins arrived at a huge, derelict building in Provo two days after the council arrived. The remainder of the Crows were taken to the basement to wait for the council to decide their fate. Their enhanced hearing

capabilities picked up quiet voices in the chambers above

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their heads, and occasionally the deep, strong voice of Serene. The Crows nervously shuffled about in the graffiti

decorated classroom that was once used to teach young Mormon missionaries. They knew that among the other rules that had been melded into their minds by the Council, the law against killing their own kind surely brought death to those that broke it. Only assassins of the council had the

right to judge and exterminate Vampires, and those killed were only terminated for the greater good of the population.

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The Shadow of Rhiannon Chapter 8

A somber-faced servant appeared in the doorway and motioned for them to follow him. He led them up a flight of stairs and down a hallway to a set of double doors. They walked through a glassed-in walkway covered with ivy and up another flight of stairs. Presently they arrived at another set of double doors that swung open of their own accord. Serene and her council sat at a long table in the center of what once was a cafeteria. Minx, the sorceress held up a hand and a strong, unseen force pushed the Crows to their knees before the table. through the room. “By law of the V-Council, the punishment for killing your own kind is death, but these are extraordinary circumstances. The need for effective enforcement in the current situation dictates that we find a use for you. It is our will and intent to initiate you into our service as assassins for the greater good. Serene’s willful voice echoed

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If you wish to argue this judgment you have the chance now to plead your case.” The ageless eyes of the Council members studied them for a time. They could feel them searching their minds for any

contradiction to their judgment. “You have questions,” Clive spoke “feel free to ask them now.” “What is the initiation?” Todd queried. “It is better that you do not know that at this time.” A sudden, unsettled feeling fell upon the Crows, and the Council exchanged thoughts barely discernable to them. Josephala gestured with one hand and Jason was abruptly lifted into the air, his boots a full two feet from the floor. Serene stood; her ageless face wore a stern expression.

“You do not wish to serve us, the loss of your sister has confused you. This confusion will be erased, allow it, or we will have to terminate you.”

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Jason was returned to the floor and the force was lifted from them, allowing the Crows to stand up again. Two armed assassins led them from the room. The Crows reprogramming began immediately, the sorceress and sorcerer of the council sat before them, their thoughts connected with the young vampires’ own. Their minds were filled with their booming voices, demanding the strictest loyalty from them. They were strong for a time, resisting what they believed to be utterly wrong. But the

clarity of their mission soon overcame feelings of doubt and resentment. The Crows began to see themselves not as a small circle of friends that fought the world, alive and undead alike, but as a part of a higher consciousness, an ancient tradition of honor and discipline. The beauty of their world that had been lost to them when the war began re-emerged and they felt a kind of peace and purpose. underestimated Jason, however. His anger They had made him

completely uncontrollable to any of their methods. After two days of resistance and struggle, they finally confined him to a cell that was only visited by the sorcerer, Josephala. The

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intensity of the reprogramming was painful to Jason, and his screams echoed through the building. The Crows did not like the treatment he received, but were helpless to aid him, for they knew that they would be terminated. The way they had been taught was the right way, and they could only hope he would not resist for much longer. The chamber of assassins, lit only by flame light of numerous kerosene lanterns and torches mounted on the brick walls, was empty save for three members. One of which the crows recognized as Keokuk, one of the vampires that brought them in when they had been authenticated. His stony features only showed a quick flash of recognition as he acknowledged their presence. Jason did not appear with A number of

them, they could only speculate of his fate.

firearms lay upon the long table and large ancient books lay open upon stands around the room. As Crystal studied the books, one of the closed ones flipped open and the pages turned seemingly of their own accord. She had seen enough magic used in these quarters of the council that this did not impress her greatly; She moved her attention from the books

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and studied the rest of the room. The walls were decorated with all manner of weapons, ranging from Scottish

broadswords to large hefty crossbows, obviously gathered over centuries of conflict with those who opposed the VCouncil.

Keokuk stood and addressed them solemnly, his eyes mirroring the flickering light. “You have been designated as assassins of the V-Council, this is your only designation. To leave the Council is to sign your own death warrant. I suggest you accept this fully and never stray from your purpose. Do you accept your duty? The Crows agreed with certainty and he motioned for them to sit. “You will be granted your freedom under the terms you have learned. This freedom is limited to your imagination in acquiring your targets and carrying out your duty as the Council decrees it.” He motioned to the books surrounding them and continued.

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“There is more knowledge in these books than one of you can learn in time to use them, but they are always here for your reference, yours anywhere you are located in the world, observe.” Keokuk closed his eyes and the pages of an open volume began to silently flutter until it reached a point near the center of the text. He raised a hand and a brilliant orb appeared n the center of the room, it formed into a window and images appeared inside it. The crows realized that they were looking into another place. The crescent moon hung over sagebrush covered mountains. The landscape began to shift and turn and began to speed by at an incredible velocity. This continued for a few seconds, then the movement stopped and like a telescope, the window zoomed in on some frenzied activity. They were suddenly watching a gruesome feeding frenzy of a group of vampires on a family in a station wagon. The mother and father and an older

woman were being dragged through broken windows, tearing their clothing and slicing through their flesh. Faint screams issued from inside the vehicle as the adults were held down

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and the attackers sank teeth into numerous parts of their bodies. A car door was flung open on the opposite side of the vehicle and three children fled into the night, ignored for the time being by the feeding vampires. Crystal’s stomach

turned at the pitiful sight, but she noticed that she was now feeling a new coldness in her observation of the situation. She realized that she was only interested in seeing if the vampires were violating the Council’s laws. The window closed and Keokuk lowered his hand. “To access these books, you need only to lift your hand, think of your name, and imagine what you need help with. What you have just witnessed was a spell accessed from the book you observed. I was able to read from it the spell that allowed us to see a certain band of vampires that we have been watching for some time now. Your first assignment will be to eliminate these vampires; they freely kill their own kind every time they encounter them. They will be wary of assassins, so take caution.” He turned his attention the weapons heaped upon the table.” You are allowed to take any three weapons from this place for

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use in your mission, and any ammunition that is available that you can carry, choose wisely, for you will only be able to use whatever you can find out there once they are spent." The supply of available weapons was limited, having been mostly firearms seized from the humans in the war and also having been picked over by assassins currently sent on missions before the crows had arrived. They chose an array of 9mm pistols with extra clips, a Remington Model 700 Sendero Sniper Rifle with a precision telescope, a bi-pod with a swivel mount, and a silencer. Crystal had always found

knives to be fascinating, so she found a large deadly looking Bowie with large, curved spikes on the blade. Shane and Todd chose knives also, wisely deciding to carry close combat weapons. The crows were given a day to memorize the

indexes of the books and sent back out into the post-mortem world America had become.

Motorcycles roared into the seemingly deserted town of Skull Valley. The towns of Bagdad, Hillside, and Kirkland had been utterly deserted. Since they had found a single station

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wagon with a small family group of humans inside, they had only been able to feed upon a couple of stray dogs and a thin, wandering horse. They longed thirstily for human blood with its unique, exquisite flavor. The scent on the breeze

here told them that at least fifty humans were here, likely scavengers. The night air in Arizona was still hot, this being the end of August, and this made the gang irritable. Some fights had broken out and two members had been killed, but it didn’t matter to the others. Their alliance was shaky to say the least, and most believed that the fewer there were in the gang, the better were their chances of getting ample sustenance. The living scent grew stronger and soon they turned off their engines, silently coasting down the main street. They honed in on a hotel and quickly surrounded it. Two of them transformed into black-skinned, demon-like creatures, and quickly scaled the side of the building as if gravity did not exist. Finding a broken window, they slipped inside.

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The humans had decided that they would be safer if they confined themselves to one building. The beds in this place were comfortable in a time when comfort was of short supply. The fifty-four people were divided into nine groups of six people for the two bottom floors of the hotel. Twenty-four people slept in the bedrooms of the second story, and twenty-four slept in the four bedrooms on the bottom floor. One group of six men stayed in the lobby, one of each keeping a watchful eye through the front window in shifts. A tired-looking man gazed through the still-intact glass and shifted wearily to glance at his watch. Spotting a slight

movement in the darkness, he leaned forward and peered harder. Deciding it was only a stray animal, he relaxed and sat back on the sofa, his eyelids getting heavy with exhaustion. Slowly they closed and his head rolled forward on his chest. A scream from upstairs broke the silence of the night, awakening everyone. A young girl fought an obscene creature as it pierced her flesh with long fingernails and ripped out the side of her neck. Blood gouted, soaking an older woman who had been lying beside the girl. A young

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boy that had been lying on the floor vaulted over the bed and plunged a wooden stake through its back; narrowly missing it’s heart. The creature dropped the girl and lunged at him, taking him to the floor with it. Two women rushed into the room and began stabbing it in the back with long daggers. It immediately transformed into human-like form and the flesh fell from the bones, the corpse turning to dust within seconds. A shocked silence descended and the girl began to weep in terror as blood poured from her neck. Her slightly lacerated brother tore off his T-shirt and wrapped it around her neck, temporarily stanching the blood flow. Shouts erupted from another room and the sounds of a battle drew their attention. Small children were herded into closets while the strong hurried to the source of the noise. Soon the adults abandoned the ground floor and before they all knew what was happening, the windows in the ground floor were breaking and the vampires were inside the hotel. The strategy of the vampires became apparent to the humans all too late. Swiftly, some attacked the children in the closets at the ground floor while others moved upstairs.

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The humans fought valiantly against their attackers, causing temporary injury and in a few cases, death. The silence of the night was shattered however, by the shrieks of the doomed people as they were slaughtered in a feeding frenzy.

Daylight came and the vampires slept among the corpses of their kills. Shane had mastered the seeing

window and the Crows had watched the whole massacre while they traveled. Though their methods disgusted her, Crystal had to marvel at their ability to come up with an instant strategy and carry it through to its triumph. The

whole scene made her very thirsty, but they needed to close the distance between themselves and the gang of killers they had been sent after. Crystal wished that they could just open a door with the magic from the books and be within killing range so they could finish them off, but no such spell existed. They had procured a Ford truck for transportation, having found an undisturbed but vacated car dealership in Provo.

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Out of their original six, they were only three now. Shane, Todd and Crystal shared a sentiment silently, an emptiness without their siblings and friends. Crystal

supposed they should have been angry with the Council keeping Jason, but a strange new mental block prevented any hostility toward them. The remainder of the Crows had found an empty apartment complex and a suitable

apartment to sleep in during the day. The truck was locked up outside and they felt fairly safe, so they posted no guard.

The assault on his senses had been almost unbearable, and Jason decided not to fight anymore. He sat silently in the makeshift cell and stared blankly ahead. His thoughts too blurred to make any sense. Josephala had finally left him to recuperate from three straight hours of attempted

programming. Jason knew that his friends had left him, under what circumstances he was unsure. Minx would join

Josephala in the next and Jason already dreaded the doubled onslaught.

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Randy awakened to find one of the other members of the gang reaching into his coat. He grasped the hand and snapped it backward while striking the other across the bridge of his nose. The other vampire fell back moaning and clutching at his hand.

Randy stood up quickly and kicked the other vampire in the head with his steel-toed boot, crunching it through his temple. The body convulsed several times and then A fleeting

combusted quickly, leaving smoking bones.

thought alarmed Randy to the point of panic and he quickly searched for Mike. Finding his brother lying nearby, an arm draped over a stiffening corpse of one of the victims of the preceding night, he relaxed and sat upon a nearby bed, holding his head in both hands. His mind reeled from the

rude awakening and he stood and kicked the skull of the vampire across the room. He had been reaching for Randy’s knife, probably planning to take the leadership of the gang.

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Jason finally succumbed to the brain washing tactics of the Council, at least he was finally able to make them believe so. He kneeled alone before them, eyes downcast, in the

temple room that had once been a seminary room for the young Mormon missionaries. His mental ability had

improved in his solitude and he filled his mind with compliance.

“You are strong”, Serene said, striding around him, then stopping and lifting his chin so he was forced to look into her beautiful ageless face. I have found more strength in you than my own master of assassins. For you I have plans.” She turned to the others and motioned with a long slender hand. “You may leave us, I am in no danger.” The others slowly filed out of the room and closed the carved doors behind them. Serene removed the black velvet hood from her head, revealing long red hair with white streaks running through the temples. She untied the golden cords that bound the robe at her waist, and slowly pulled the fold of the robe back to reveal a perfect, smooth body with ample

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breasts.

Jason caught his breath and gazed at her for a

moment, then remembered that he was to be submissive and lowered his eyes once again. “Do you find me beautiful?” Serene asked “Does a newly reborn find the oldest vampire on this planet to be exciting?” “Yes, my lady, very much so.” “Then lift your eyes.” He looked again, and saw that she had removed her robe entirely, large batlike wings rose slowly from her shoulders, rustling as she spread them. Her eyes began to glow red.” “I am known throughout history as Lilith, the first Nosferatu. Time has no meaning to me. I am forever death, the reaper of mortal and immortal beings.” She circled him once again, and he truly felt fear in his heart for the first time since his rebirth. She bent down and whispered in his ear from behind. “Rise to your feet.” He unsteadily rose and she wrapped her demonic wings around him. He felt an intense cold feeling deep in his bones from her touch, like she was made from ice, but this was soon replaced by a growing heat. He began to realize that his

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tattered clothing was burning and he struggled, but she wrapped her wings tighter, not allowing him to move. “Be still!” She hissed.

His mind reeled and he began to see a swirling red light enveloping the two of them. Keeping her wings around him, she moved, facing him now. His clothing had burned away, but he was uninjured, the heat subsided and he realized that he was becoming very sexually excited against his will. “You are mine, eternally.” She whispered in his ear. Her body was pressed tightly against his own. She nipped at his neck and traced her tongue along his jaw line and then met his lips with her own. He reacted naturally, his hands roaming over her body at the same time. He could feel the injuries and weariness caused by his ordeal heal and fade; replaced with a surge of power he had never felt before. Serene, pulled him down to the floor with her and deftly flipped him onto his back. She clamped her teeth into his jugular and slid him into herself at the same time. He briefly remembered when Rhiannon had transformed him; there had

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been nothing sexual about it. She had only drained him to the point of death then fed him from her own arm. The memory was only instantaneous in the incredible sensations that were currently coursing through his body. Serene was not draining him. She was feeding him. The slow, graceful movement of her body filled him with pleasure and his breath caught in his throat as he felt intense energy building inside him. Visions from other minds filled his own, becoming a part of him. He opened his eyes and found himself staring directly into hers, glowing with a brilliant red light. She arched her back and hissed like a cat. Her wings extended to their full width and Jason began to wonder if he had just had sex with a demon.

She finally withdrew and stood over him, folding her wings behind her back. She extended a hand for him to rise. He knew he was something different now, something more, either blessed or cursed eternally by the creature before him.

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She retreated to a narrow doorway and left him standing naked in the room. His mind reeled from the influx of visions he had experienced and the opening of a doorway into his brain he was never aware of. He looked around and spotted a black robe not unlike Serene’s. He quickly donned it and tied the golden belt around his waist. A young vampire appeared and motioned to him with lowered eyes. “Follow me, if it pleases your lordship.” Confused by the young vampires new attitude toward him, he followed closely behind and was led to another darkened room to join the Council members. He flinched at voices in his mind, but they were gentle, asking him to join them. An empty chair awaited him and he sat. Looking around the

room, he noticed that very few of those present met his eyes. Only the true Ancients looked upon him, but with a new respect. They knew what had transpired between himself and Serene.

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The remainder of the Crows knew better than to engage the gang of vampires during the day. They were only three. They judged the renegades to number at least ten. On the other hand, the Crows had firearms and the renegades were still asleep, having gorged themselves with human blood the night before. The decision was not an easy one, and they had to decide quickly. A day assault would be completely unexpected, so the Crows donned black overcoats with hoods and gloves to protect their pale skin from the sun. The town of Skull Valley was just outside their encampment, so they walked instead of driving the vehicle. Following the scent of spilled blood eventually led them to the hotel. They sensed a small amount of wakefulness among the vampires inside, but decided to engage them anyway. The windows were broken already and the Crows climbed in from three sides of the building. The floors were thick with drying blood and corpses littered every corner. Some had been heaped in the foyer, torn apart to the point where they could not have come back even with a feeding of vampire’s blood. Shane motioned the others to follow and

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crept up the stairway. They could smell the sleeping vampires on the second floor. Halfway up a vampire appeared at the top of the steps. Crystal pulled the 9mm out of her pocket and blasted a bullet through its skull. Its death was by explosion and she ducked to avoid flying body parts. The others upstairs began to awaken and she knew they had to move quickly. Shane rushed up the steps past Crystal, and Todd pushed her behind him, using himself as her shield. They reached the second floor to find the vampires groggily awakening. The smell of death was sickening. Shane unloaded a clip of an AK-47 into three of the rousing creatures, causing their destruction immediately. “What is this?” A male voice asked to our right “An attack by our own kind in the day?” In a flash the crows were disarmed of the firearms in their hands by a scruffy looking vampire. “Looks like we have a bounty hunter problem here.” Another one rose from behind a bed and Crystal noted a strong similarity between the two. They advanced on them slowly.

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Crystal felt a familiar surge of power that started from her chest and traveled down her arms. She raised her hands forward and concentrated. Fire flew from her fingertips, engulfing the room and the two others dove for cover. Crystal grabbed Todd and Shane followed as they sped back down the stairway and out the front doorway. They stood

and watched as Crystal’s flame consumed the entire building. Randy and Mike fought their way through the screaming, flaming remainder of their gang and dove through an open window, rolling as they hit the ground. The sunlight was unbearable, and they fled for an empty house that stood nearby. The Crows saw no one escape the blaze. Walking back to the apartments seemed like an impossible venture and Crystal was terribly weakened by what she had just done. She nearly collapsed on the street and Todd lifted her into his arms. “We can’t make it, we will have to go into one of these other buildings for the day.”

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Shane agreed and Crystal was carried into an abandoned furniture store. Todd laid her comfortably upon a mattress and encircling her in his arms, laid his head upon her breast, instantly sleep. Shane sat in the storefront, watching the hotel burn. Soon, his eyes closed too. Jason was to be the new master of assassins, much to Clive’s anger, but he held his tongue. Serene had made the choice, and something had transpired between the two that he would never understand. Serene had never paid him such attentions, and now he was only another of the council’s assassins, part of the leadership, but reduced in rank all the same. The vampire that had once been a captive was now taking his place and he vowed he would regain it, but time and patience was all he had. He entered his bedchamber and consulted his orb. A blur of images sped through it and he concentrated on his query. The images slowed and he soon was able to watch Serene and Jason’s encounter. He gasped at the sudden appearance of Serene’s wings and then watched, agape, at the event that transpired between Jason

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and what he now knew to be Lilith herself. Study from the past was remembered.

Lilith was the original Nosferatu, the first wife of Adam, tossed into the bowels of hell from the Garden of Eden to become the Queen of the Succubus demons, a legion of female blood drinkers that took mortal men in the night and started vampirism on this planet. Finally, his questions that he had carried with him for centuries were answered. She had given something to Jason, something he could not yet comprehend.

Jake and his family had finally fled Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and drove into a deeply forested area to escape any more possible attack. The three wide-eyed children, Olivia, Alissa, and Jimmy had finally fallen asleep, covered with blankets by their mother.

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Karen felt an overwhelming need to cling onto Jake, to feel safe in his arms, but knew better than to disturb him while he was driving at night. She pushed the feeling down as far as she could and fought the need to fall asleep. Jimmy stirred; crying in his sleep and Karen stroked his forehead, singing a gentle song to him until he was still again. The children had been through so much and the pickup stank of burned flesh. Jake pulled into a clearing and opened the driver’s side door. Karen followed, and they pulled a large folded tent from the bed of the pickup. They quickly set it up and Karen roused the children and got them on their feet. Olivia rubbed her eyes and asked if they were going camping. “Yes, honey, we are going on vacation for a while.” Blankets were spread on the floor of the tent and the children crawled into it and fell fast asleep once more. They were still in shock and sleep was a natural reaction to such. Karen zipped up the doorway to the tent and turned to her husband. “Do we dare start a fire?”

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“Not yet, wait until daylight” Karen and Jake huddled together in a sleeping bag outside the tent and Karen finally got the comfort she needed, though Jakes thoughts seemed far away. She stroked his back under his shirt, relaxing him as best as she could. “You want me to fall asleep, babe?” “No, you just seem tense.” They fell silent again and watched the moon travel across the sky. Jake felt like jumping at every sound the forest made, but he didn’t want to upset Karen. Finally the sun rose and the children came out of the tent, awakened by the need to eat. Jake built a fire and pulled a large cooler from the pickup. He had raided a grocery store along the way and had the chest loaded with food and soda. He also had a large box with various canned goods. He planned to stay alive with his family as long as possible on their “vacation”.

Shane, Todd and Crystal felt the hunger coming on again, they had not fed for days. In the darkness they left the

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furniture store only to find the scent of other vampires still in the air. This disturbed them, but they knew only their hunger and had to find sustenance as soon as possible. They hurried back to the apartment complex where their vehicle was waiting. They climbed into it and headed away from the town, knowing that their mission was incomplete but needing to feed. There was nothing along the paved road that they could see so they headed off road. They knew that ranchers had cattle roaming the area, it was a poor substitute for what they needed, but it was better than nothing. Soon they scented the rank odor of cattle and left the dirt trail they had been following. They spotted a small ranch house and a field of grazing cattle. They were healthy and better yet, inside a fence. They shape shifted into wolves and advanced upon the panicking cattle. Crystal leapt upon a calf and sank her teeth into its belly, the splash of blood soaking her fur, drinking everything she could. The rest of them tried to trample the fence, only tangling their legs in the barbed wire. Todd and

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Shane followed suit, ripping apart every cow they could reach. A bullet whizzed by Crystal’s head and she realized that there was a human presence. A man stood at the edge of the field, a rifle aimed at them. Shane vanished without a trace and Crystal saw the man go down as if a terrific force hit him. As he fought Shane reappeared, struggling with him. The rifle flew from the man’s grasp and he attempted to crawl to retrieve it, but Shane jumped onto his back and tried to rip out the side of his neck. A woman appeared in the doorway of the ranch house and screamed the man’s name. Crystal left the field and sped to her, taking her down in a blur of movement. She was now inside the ranch house and saw two other figures coming at her. She shape shifted back into a partial human/wolf form and slashed at the woman with long claws. She fell back and a teenage boy swung a baseball bat at Crystal’s head. She ducked and something leapt over her body and took the boy down, ripping out his throat instantly. She turned back to the woman and revelled in the flavor of her blood. Todd fed on the boy by her side.

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Clive invited Diana Esthera to take a walk with him. The blonde haired female warlord was a close friend of his and he had something of great importance to tell her. He was angry about his demotion at the hands of Serene and Jason. His mind reeled with his sudden knowledge of what Serene really was. He knew Diana would understand and he might have an ally. The empty streets echoed their footsteps and Diana carefully searched Clive’s mind for what this could possibly be about. She knew he was angry about his demotion, but all she could pick up was fleeting images of demons and Serene. She placed a hand on his shoulder and turned him so she could look into his eyes. He spoke finally…. “Serene has not been entirely honest with us…” He told her of his discovery, of his studies in the past and what Serene could possibly be. He knew that his faithful service to her would not have been affected by this new knowledge if he had not been made to bow down to Jason. His anger and jealousy was intense. Diana listened to him, reading his thoughts and listening to his words.
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“If she is the Nosferatu, there would be no defeating her, and you know that. Your mind has been poisoned by your envy. How could you change your loyalty in such a short time?” Clive was silent, but his mind still spoke, he wanted out of the council. Diana felt confusion for the first time in centuries. She had been with Clive as a lover against the rules of the Council in the past. She could leave with him, but the protection of the council would leave them, the blood thirst would come back and the assassins would hunt them down like animals. “I will think on this for a while, you will have my answer soon” Diana turned and walked back to the building, leaving Clive standing in the street. Time passed slowly for Clive for once, he was used to the days flying by like minutes, weeks like hours, years like months, and centuries like years. He and many other members of the Council had been made into vampires against their will centuries ago, in the Dark Ages. All that they had wanted was survival and order. Now to find that their leader was the demon that started it all made him

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resentful.

The humans were so lucky up until the recent

events. Living out their lives from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, finding love that lasted, growing old with family, children and grandchildren. He felt cheated out of

that for the first few centuries as a vampire, and then joining the council gave him purpose and leadership. Now those

feeling were coming back, the whole post-mortem world was Serene’s fault from the start. He decided to turn as many members of the Council against her as he could. The campaign was not easy, as he spoke with different members, they exhibited their usual loyalty to Serene, but after some convincing of his point of view they joined him, one by one in his way of thinking. This captive-turnedGeneral was great leverage. Serene, in her all knowing power, began to read that the Council was turning against her. Clive was the root of the problem. The poison from him was spreading. She knew a battle was coming, and it would be she and Jason alone to fight it. She leaned back on the fine sheets of her bed and mentally called him.

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The children, with their uncanny ability to endure grave situations, were playing out in the forest while Karen and Jake worried about their survival. The vampires seemed to be

staying in rural areas, but could find them if they looked hard enough. With prey dwindling, Jake knew they would do just that. Karen had been unable to stay awake as well as Jake, but he felt that she needed more sleep than he did. Nights in this forest with no light and no campfire were frightening, and visions of what had transpired in Jackson Hole haunted him night and day. He could see the burning vampires, the grief stricken faces of families, and most of all, his son, that he’d had to kill. He and Karen spent much of their time sharpening stakes from the fallen branches of the trees surrounding them. Many large spears were stacked against the side of the tent. Night was falling again, and he roused Karen from her nap to watch with him. The children were herded into the tent despite their protests of “Wanting to play some more.” Karen sat by the dwindling fire they had used to cook supper

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and stared at the glowing coals, lost in thought. Jake came to sit beside her and scanned the area around them. All looked safe for the time being. The night wore on and Jake threw water on the still smoking fire pit. Karen went to fetch some more from the deep stream that ran nearby when Jake heard an unfamiliar sound. “Get back here” He hissed at Karen and she immediately joined him. Shining a spotlight into the area the sound had come from they saw only a flash of movement, then it was gone. “Maybe it was just a coyote.” Karen said, desperate hope in her voice. “Dinner for tomorrow?” Jake joked, his voice belying his serious expression. A pair of eyes lit up in the darkness, not far from the original sound. Jake hopped into the bed of the Ford and grabbed his shotgun. Karen stood before the tent opening, ready to guard the children.

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Suddenly, they began to hear sounds all around them. Jake jumped to the roof of the cab where he could see the entire perimeter and held the shotgun at ready. A large, wolf like creature stepped into the clearing, slavering at them. Its fur was pure black, but it had no tail and its front paws were much like that of human hands. Jake fired the shotgun, blowing it backwards into the brush. It regained it feet and more of the same creatures emerged from the forest. Karen could hear the children screaming inside the tent, Olivia was trying to unzip the door, but Karen shoved a hand in her face. “Get back in.” Jake fired at the creatures, pausing to reload the shotgun from a pocketful of ammunition. They seemed to be enjoying teasing him, gracefully leaping away from the blasts and coming closer. He dropped the shotgun into the bed of the Ford and grabbed a long spear, thrusting it at the nearest monster. It penetrated its eye and the monster fell back, screaming and grasping the spear from Jakes hands. Jake took a long step forward and grabbed the spear again,

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shoving it into the monster’s brain. The creature melted before his eyes and left a gooey human skeleton. The game was over; three more creatures attacked Jake, knocking him from his feet. He fought them valiantly, holding back their snapping teeth from his neck. Karen left the tent and bodily threw one of the creatures from her husband. It whirled and snarled at her with long, curved canines. She grabbed another spear and shoved it through another monster atop Jake, as it deteriorated; she found she could lift it off him. Jake got a foot under the stomach of the third and shoved it off, regaining his feet. The children had unzipped the door to the tent and stood screaming, watching the fight. Karen grabbed the shotgun and blew off the head of one at close range. The last one fled into the forest, moving faster than they could see. Karen checked Jake for any bite marks, but he was mainly bruised and scratched up. The children were refusing to stay in the tent now, finding excuses to come out and be with their parents. The next order of business was to get rid

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of the skeletal remains of the vampires. Four had attacked them, and three had died, but all in different ways. One had crumbled to dust, another was a mass of bone and some gooey substance and the third was charred as if it had caught fire. Jake and Karen dug a shallow hole and shoved the two intact skeletons into it. Jake covered them up with dirt and Karen shoved dirt over the top of the strange dust. Exhausted now, they decided to sleep for part of the day. Karen awoke by noon and made a fire. She was hungry and she knew that the rest of the family would be also. There were eight potatoes left and six eggs, so she made a hash. The smell of the late breakfast awakened Jake and he went to the children’s tent to rouse them to eat. Olivia was curled up in a fetal position in the back corner of the tent, obviously having had trouble sleeping. Alissa was up immediately, but Jimmy was not there. “Jimmy’s gone!” He shouted to Karen, who took the pan from the fire and glanced into the tent as if her looking would make the child materialize.

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“Maybe he is down by the stream. They zipped up the tent again with the girls inside and went looking for the missing child. Calling his name over and over, they combed every possible place until they came upon a cave high in the mountainside. Jake struggled up to it and peered inside. In the darkness he could make out three

tunnels leading in different directions into the cliff. He desperately hoped that Jimmy had gone into the cave to explore. “Go back to the camp, honey,” He shouted down to Karen “Maybe he is in here.” Karen broke into tears and walked back to the camp. Olivia was picking at the food in the frying pan and Alissa was throwing rocks at cans she had set up a small distance away. Karen was overcome with emotion and hugged her

daughters one by one.

Then, trying to get herself under

control, she told them about the cave, “Daddy and Jimmy will be back soon.” Jake chose the widest tunnel and climbed into it, it led upwards for quite a way, then dropped several feet. There

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was no way Jimmy could have gone into this one so he climbed back out. Choosing another tunnel, he followed it up; it became narrower and narrower until he had to crawl, then the tunnel turned into a large open space. Jake dropped down from it and stood, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. After a time, he could make out several forms lying still upon the floor. He could hear heavy breathing from all around him and he realized he had found a lair. A small voice came from his right, ”Daddy?” It was Jimmy, the child was standing back in a corner obviously too terrified to move. He tucked the child under his arm and hurried back to the tunnel. Pushing Jimmy into it, he waited for a second, looking back at the forms lying on the cave floor, thinking about the coming night. He got an idea and climbed up to the mouth of the tunnel. Soon they were back out into the daylight, Jimmy held an arm up to his eyes and moaned. Jake shouted for Karen and she appeared in seconds. He handed the child down to her and she held him tightly in her arms, weeping with relief. Jake climbed down and joined them. They walked back to camp.
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The Shadow of Rhiannon Chapter 9

Serene called a council meeting, penetrating the minds of every member, including the board of assassins. They gathered soberly in the Chamber, awaiting her arrival. After a few seconds Serene appeared with Jason and everyone sat at the long table, eyes downcast. Clive looked around, getting confirmation from all minds that they were one in thought. Serene sat, but Jason remained standing at her right hand. “So you all have something on your minds, speak now.” Clive raised his eyes along with the rest of the council. “You have not been forthcoming with us.”

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“My secrets are mine to keep, not yours to question.” Clive stood, and Diana shot him a warning glance. He ignored it. “What are you?” Lilith raised herself slowly from her seat and removed her robe, the robe she always wore, the robe they had never seen her without. Her body was covered with a kind of armour now; She spread her large, bat like wings and a gasp echoed through the chamber. “You all dare to conspire against me, now you will pay the price.” She began to glow with a fiery light and her hair turned to flame. The council was on their feet now, but all doors slammed shut. Streams of fire burst from her wings and caught Clive and Diana, lifting them into the air. They were slammed with incredible force into the wall behind them. “This is what I am!” Serene held her arms out, palms forward, and bursts of brilliant light shot from the heads of each council member, traveling into her fingertips. Nearly transparent forms shot from her eyes. The forms became a legion of red skinned female demons that attacked every

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council member in the room. Jason stepped back against the wall, watching in awe as they were torn apart by the beautiful Succubae. Those who did not become immobile

immediately tried to escape through the doors, only to be rent limb from limb by the demons.

Black vampire blood coated the floor. Still alive, though torn apart, the limbless bodies of the ancient vampires wriggled upon the floor. Serene pulled a silver sword from a sheath at her side and handed it to Jason. “Put this through the heads of each of them. Prove to me your loyalty.” Jason did as he was instructed while the legion of demons and Serene watched. Each vampire died in a different way. Some exploded, some imploded, some combusted, others just crumbled to dust. They screamed as they saw him coming for them. Dripping with blood and gore, he returned the sword to Serene and she raised her hands once more. Demonic laughter filled the chamber as all the naked succubae reached out to him, stroking and caressing him with their

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long fingers. Then they were gone, and he and Serene stood alone. She returned to her human-like form and drew him close, kissing him, her hands moving up and down his body. Jason felt a little sick, but he was not what he used to be. He belonged forever to Lilith, and he would do anything she requested.

Morning had come and the Crows were sated, they found beds in the Ranch house. There were still plenty of cattle to feed on, but they had to complete our mission. Todd and Crystal climbed naked into a bed after showering the blood from their bodies. Crystal was nearly asleep when she felt his hands roaming over her body. She responded with a giggle and wrapped one leg over his hip. They moved together, lying on their sides, thoroughly enjoying each other. Night fell and Crystal, Todd, and Shane rose and got dressed. Crystal was strapping a gun to her thigh when she got an unusual pain in her abdomen. She gasped and fell to her knees. Todd helped her up, but the pain came again and she fell again, this time onto her back.

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“What is wrong?” He asked, combing back the hair on her face with his fingers. “I don’t know, its my stomach, something is wrong.” He lifted her in his arms and laid her back onto the bed. “You rest a moment, we will be back.” Todd and Shane left the ranch house and drove back into town; they could sense that two vampires had escaped the fire. Just as they reached the remains of the hotel, they heard the roar of engines. Two vampires sped past them on motorcycles, heading south. Shane and Todd hurried back to the ranch house. Crystal felt that she could walk, but a terrible weakness had overtaken her. They fed on cattle, Todd helping Crystal by breaking one’s legs. The weakness

passed and they drove south, still fixated on their mission. The two vampires names were Randy and Michael, brothers. Crystal knew this but did not know how. “The problem, though unbelievable as it may seem, lies in the influx of Americans trying to escape their country. They are bringing the disease of vampirism with them. From their own accounts, America is a wasteland, filled with the
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sickness. We must confront this problem and save our own countries from becoming infected.” The Speaker sat down, discussion rose throughout the room. “If we take the measure that I believe you are promoting, wont fallout affect our Countries as well?” “That is a risk that we must all keep in mind. We can either allow this disease to run rampant through our own homes or eliminate it in the best way we know how.” More discussion rose, but the speaker raised a hand. “All those in favor of sending nuclear missiles to the United States raise their hands.” Silently, a few hands rose, then a few more, that was all that the speaker needed. He left the room silently, considering the gravity of their decision.

Americans were not welcome in any country anymore, having left their country in droves and bringing members of their families that were reborn with them. Some of the Americans had even been Vampires for a while and decided

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to leave the states to find fresh blood abroad. The media, which had broadcast worldwide Rhiannon’s killing spree, had also broadcast the executions of those unfortunate souls that were captured, tortured, and murdered in every state. The rest of the world had watched, aghast, as the United States became a nightmare. And no one would take in the travelers that tried to get out. Now nuclear annihilation seemed the only choice left, and the meeting of the United Nations sealed America’s fate.

Jake flooded the cave floor with gasoline, working quickly as he could before night fell. Some of the vampires stirred briefly, but their sleep was deep enough to allow him to work with no real danger. He had excess gasoline, taken from a gas station along the way to the forest. He and Karen had rigged up a pulley and she waited outside and hoisted the canisters to her husband while he worked. Finally, he was satisfied that he had flooded it enough. He lit a book of matches on the cave wall and dropped it in a puddle nearby.

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Blue flame traveled across the cave floor and he climbed back into the tunnel, moving as quickly as he could to escape. The flame roused the vampires, who, finding themselves afire tried desperately to roll on the cave floor, only soaking themselves further with gasoline. Inhuman screams and howls became deafening to Jakes ears as he made a dive from the outside mouth of the cave, rolling down the steep hill. Several of the vampires jammed their flaming bodies into the small tunnel leading out of the chamber and began to come out, one by one into the daylight. But it was too late for them and the burning corpses littered the ground and filled the tunnel so there was no way out for the remainder of the monsters that managed to beat the flame from themselves. Jake and Karen fled the scene.

The children sat in the Ford, waiting impatiently for their parent’s return. Jake pulled the tent from the ground, stakes and all and threw it in the bed of the truck. Soon they were back on the mountain road, climbing higher and higher into the wilderness.

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From a new camping spot, the Tristans watched the sun sink low in the horizon. Jimmy had been doing a lot of sleeping that day and now lay with his head on his mother’s lap. His eyes slowly opened as the moon rose and he felt an overwhelming emptiness inside. He slowly rose from his mother’s lap and looked into her eyes. “Momma, I’m hungry.” He said in a small voice. Karen was about to answer him when he suddenly clamped his teeth into her neck. She screamed and Jake tried to pull the child off her. Olivia and Alissa stepped back, away from the struggle. Jake disengaged Jimmy from Karen, and the child twisted violently in his hands, then turned his small face to his father, blood dripping from his mouth. He whined. “I’m just so hungry, daddy.” Before Jake could respond, the child ripped through the flesh of his arm with long canines and kicked him in the stomach, knocking the wind from him. Jake fell backwards and hit his head on a tree stump, knocking himself cold. Jimmy took advantage of the situation and climbed atop his father, ready

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to rip into his throat. Karen grabbed a large branch and knocked Jimmy off Jake. Tears ran down her face as blood from her ripped neck soaked into her shirt. Jimmy stood for a second, his eyes glowing red in the darkness. “I’m just so hungry…..” He launched himself at her in a blur of speed and locked his teeth into her neck again, finishing what he started. Alissa and Olivia stood back and watched in horror as Jimmy left their mother and returned to their father. His small body was pale in the moonlight as he climbed back atop him. Olivia remembered what she had seen her parents do to the monsters that had come the night before and grabbing a stick, attempted to stake the child. The end of the branch only glanced off Jimmy’s back, tearing his t-shirt. Jimmy hissed at her and turned back to Jake. Olivia swung the stick at her brother, knocking him off their father. Jimmy glowered at them for a second, and then ran into the forest. Not knowing when and if Jimmy would return, Alissa and Olivia desperately tried to awaken Jake. Their mother lay in a pool of blood nearby, her eyes staring up into the darkness.
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Finally Jake began to move, his eyes opened. He sat up slowly groaning and rubbing the back of his head. What had just transpired came back to him in a rush and he crawled over to Karen, he gently rolled her head to the side and stared in disbelief at the huge rip in the side of her neck. He carefully closed her eyes and sat back in shock.

“What do we do now, daddy?” Alissa asked, coming over to kneel by his side. “Why did Jimmy do that?” Jake was still in too much shock to answer and she began to cry, Olivia joined her with a small wail. Jake realized that his daughters needed his attention and he pulled Alissa into his arms and motioned for Olivia to come over. “We will be all right, we are just going to have to leave again, just the three of us, and there is nothing we can do for your mom and Jim.”

Serene and Jason travelled alone now, in the forms of large black birds, stopping at various places to inspect holding pens full of ragged, ravaged humans. Serene talked to the vampires present, instructing them to kill anyone that

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tried to take more than their own nightly ration of blood. Jason noted that there were just too many vampires now and too few humans. Soon there would be no prey left. Serene wore her black cloak as always, disguising her majestic wings. Jason watched over her carefully, knowing that the vampires around them were hungry and desperate for blood. Many of them deserted the camps, hoping to find surviving humans that had not been taken yet. Fights broke out often, but Serene and Jason were able to stop them with a word. Serene wore her armour under her cloak, and she was an impressive sight. Her very presence kept most of the

vampires subdued in awe of her. Keys were turning in every country, locked control rooms opened and secure computer systems were activated. Satellite photos showed where the largest grouping of the population of Vampires were and targets were recalibrated. All waited on the orders from their countries leaders to launch the attack. The Crows were entering Mexico now; the bikers had left a pretty obvious trail. The sun was beginning to rise, and

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Crystal felt the weakness threefold.

There was no shelter

anywhere in sight. Shane drove with heavy lids, fighting to stay awake. Crystal laid her head on Todd’s lap and he covered her with a light blanket. Crystal dreamed for the first time in days. She found herself standing alone in a void, naked. A strange feeling

came over her and her head reeled. Crystal’s body began to change, but it was not the metamorphosis that she had become accustomed to. Her belly began to grow larger and rounder with every second and she realized that she was pregnant. Before her eyes a fetus floated in mid-air. She reached out to touch it and felt living warmth in its body. It rapidly developed and she saw that it was male. He turned his tiny head and stared at her with wide blue eyes. A voice filled Crystal’s head and she saw Serene standing to her side. She smiled at her and Crystal felt shock at her presence. “You hold within you a living vampire,” She touched the fetus with her long fingers and turned back to Crystal. “The child will bring great changes.”

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She disappeared as suddenly as she had come and the image of the child faded. Crystal’s body returned to normal and she felt relief wash over her. The council strictly forbade procreation, but she had not been punished.

Serene saw in her mind what was transpiring in the other lands of the world. Without a word, she gave Jason the signal to transform and they flew south, wingtip to wingtip. Speed was a necessity and she communicated this to him. He obeyed without question and they sped over the countryside.

Waves of destructive fire swept over America as each missile struck its target. Flesh was blown from the bones of billions of bodies, vampire and human alike. The walls of fire left nothing alive in their paths. Only the high mountain ranges and the barren desert areas were spared. Cities

crumbled and burned, leaving twisted metal skeletons where buildings once stood. Sewers boiled over, spouting into the arid air, blowing manhole covers from the streets. There was

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no escape from that hell bound place once known as home to millions. From the mountain tops the remainder of the Tristan family watched in horror as wave after wave of flames took the country. Serene and Jason flew with the hot winds behind them, and Crystal, Shane and Todd drove safely in Mexican territory, only a few hundred miles from the destruction.

Out of Annihilation: Book 3 Chapter 10

Many years had passed since the bombing of the United States. Fallout was still present, but scarce. Human suvivors suffered from radiation sickness, others were badly burned and healing was very slow. There was always a saying from the 1980's that rang true. The living envied the dead. Vampire survivors healed in no time at all and were basically unaffected by

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the radiation. Their only trouble was finding healthy human prey. Mexico had its fair share of fallout, but vampires crossed the border in hopes of finding more healthy sustenance.

The three remaining Crows were now four. Crystal had given birth to a living child, he was born with elongated and curved sharp canine teeth and had all the power of his mother and father. He grew at an accelerated rate. He was only 8 years old, but was nearly as tall as his father. Before his birth, Crystal, Todd, and Shane were well within Mexico when nuclear weapons decimated America. The Mexican people were wary of vampirism, but did not question a child that was not weakened by sunlight. Oftentimes, Crystal would awaken during the day to find that the child, Devon, had gone out to look for blood. His appetite was insatiable and he, like the rest of the Crows, could not stomach anything but blood. To go without it would bring great pain and discomfort. Meanwhile, back in America, Lilith (Otherwise known as Serene) and Jason were fairly successful in bringing most of the remaining vampires back together. There were still some renegades left, those that did not choose to follow any kind of law now that the Council was gone. Serene was very powerful however. She was extremely charismatic and inspired most of the
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remaining Vampires to follow her orders and ideals. Jason was her consort, always following her instruction and carrying out her every wish. He had become accustomed to her past history and knew what and who she was. Serene often consulted the seeing window, watching the Crows and took great interest in watching the child named Devon grow. She kept her thoughts about the child to herself, however, but Jason knew she wanted the child. He possessed great power. He knew that eventually Serene would take the child, she was only biding her time until the circumstances were right for such action. Jason watched only with mild interest, not knowing if her plans included him. Being the mother of the beautiful, red skinned Succubae Demons, she had but to call upon them and they would carry out anything she desired.

Devon walked through the streets of the town, conscientiously keeping his mouth closed so as not to show his teeth. Other children played in the streets and he would have loved to join them, but he avoided them, knowing their minds and thoughts. He was out looking for a female today, somehow they always tasted better. He was not yet old enough to be sexually attracted to females, but he had his preferences. Soon, he spotted a young girl, aged sixteen or seventeen, hanging laundry on a wooden fence. He approached her, a coy smile upon his lips.
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"Will you play with me?" He asked in Spanish, having learned it quickly from the locals. She looked him over and smiled, "Don’t you think you are a bit too old to play?" He smiled back, carefully hiding his teeth. "I will never be too old to play." She gazed into his handsome face, the smile fading from her mouth. He held out a hand and she took it. He led her into her back yard and quickly sank his teeth into her throat. She gasped and fought him for a second, then relaxed in a swoon. Devon finished her off, then slashed her throat open with his long fingernails. It only took a few minutes before the heart stopped beating, and his mother had told him many times never to drink from the dead, and he had to make a killing slash because otherwise she could be recognized as a vampire kill, and worse yet, awaken and give away the presence of the Crows. He cloaked himself with invisibilty and returned to the lair where he knew his mother was probably awaiting him. She was always so protective. Crystal sat by the window, sleepily gazing out, watching for her son. She had been having frightening dreams lately. Serene's face appeared to her many times, demanding her son. Crystal sensed an impending battle, but had no conception of when it would take place. Serene was the most powerful vampire she had ever seen, and she knew that there was more to her than could be comprehended even for the most adept vampire.
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The door swung open as if on its own accord and closed. The air shimmered for a second and Devon uncloaked. This was no surprise to Crystal, she knew that Devon enjoyed his invisibility from time to time and she did her best to teach and encourage him to use his inherited power. He was strong with intense energy and that frightened Crystal sometimes. He was a quick study, always mastering the magical arts she taught and exceeding her as if he knew more than she did. He did not yet understand how to morph, but Crystal knew that it would come when the time was right. Crystal greeted her son, reading his thoughts of what he had done. She led him down a flight of stairs leading to the cool, dark basement. Todd, Shane and Crystal slept down there regularly. Beds were laid out in three rooms. Todd and Crystal shared one room, Shane hadn't found a mate yet, so he slept alone in a small, narrow room that was much like a cubby hole. Devon had the largest room, with a large bed and built-in shelving. A single light bulb with a pull cord hung from the ceiling. Devon spent a great amount of time reading books written both in spanish and english. He was fascinated with the vampire myths and many of his books were based on it, both fictionally and nonfiction. His intelligence was far beyond his years. Olivia and Alissa decided after their father finally died from radiation sickness that they would not go the same way. The two tearfully dug a grave for him and tied a cross together with two boards, sinking it at the head of the
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grave, they simply wrote his name upon it. They had made a pact that when he was dead, they would offer themselves to the vampires, hoping to escape the painful torture that their father had to endure. They knew that all sickness would leave them, and they would never grow old. Both were well into their teens now. Nine years had passed since their little brother had been taken in the night by vampires, then had attacked their mother. They had not seen or heard from him since the incident, but were always on the lookout for him.

Olivia and Alissa made their way down the side of the mountain until they found a paved road. They followed it, and by nightfall were nearing the deserted highway. They walked fearfully along it, always wary of every sound. They stopped as they suddenly heard the sound of an engine roaring down the highway. Alissa's first impulse was to hide behind anything she could, but there was nowhere to hide. Olivia caught her arm just as Alissa turned to run, "Remember our pact!!!" Alissa, trying to relax, stood beside her sister. A large semi-truck pulled up beside them and stopped. There were three people in the cab, Olivia stepped forward and asked if they could have a ride to the nearest town. A woman in the cab stepped out and walked around to the back of the truck, opening the
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doors. Alissa could make out the forms of at least ten people in the trailer, sitting along the sides. Pistols, Rifles, and a large array of other weapons were heaped in the middle of the trailer. The woman turned to Olivia and Alissa. "You are lucky we were the first to find you, you could have been mighty tasty to some of the vermin roaming this land." "You're all human?" Olivia asked The woman nodded breifly and looked around into the darkness. "You'd better get in so we can keep moving, its feeding time for the monsters." Olivia and Alissa climbed into the trailer with the help of some of the people inside. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness the woman from the cab closed the doors and the engine roared back to life. "What do you call yourselves?" A voice from Olivia's right asked, sounding suspicious. "I'm Olivia Tristan and this is my sister Allisa." "What the hell were you doing walking out on the highway?" "We were hoping to find someone to help us, our daddy just died from the radiation." The trailer was silent for a few minutes and Olivia fidgeted nervously.

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"Sorry to hear about your daddy," another voice spoke, male and younger. "You can hang with us, we are planning to........" Another voice interrupted him. "Cole, why don't you make up a bed with some of our blankets for these two. We can talk business later." Ducking behind a corner of a building, Rayge fired off three rounds and flattened herself against the wall as bullets zinged past, barely missing her ear. She had no idea how much ammunition the other vampires had, but they were intent on killing her. She only had to worry about them tagging her head or heart, otherwise she would be fine. Her silver streaked black hair blew back from her angular face in a cool night breeze. She dropped the spent clip out of the pistol she carried and slapped in a fresh one. Firing off rounds in the direction of the others, she sped across the opening between the buildings. Rolling across the ground, she found cover behind an old truck positioned near her intended sanctuary. She had been feeding when she was rudely interrupted by the other vampires, she had to drop the still-living body and escape being killed. The other vampires were obviously new reborns as they had trouble tracking her. Rayge dug into her leather jacket pocket for the baseball sized grenade she had stolen from the cache of weapons back at the outpost. She peered around the front of the truck just in time to see three of the others running in her direction. She pulled the pin and tossed the grenade into their midst. It exploded and sent shrapnel directly into one vampire's
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brain, killing him instantly. The others dodged for cover. Rayge climbed inside the truck, hoping that it was still in working order. Finding the keys still in the ignition and a withered corpse at the wheel she opened the passenger side door and kicked the body out and turned the key. At first the engine sputtered and died, but she tried again and the engine turned over nicely. One of the other vampires leapt in front of her and tried to climb onto the hood, but she gunned the engine and crunched him beneath the tires. She was going to have to hunt somewhere else, and she was hoping that she would not be interrupted again. Markuss couldn’t believe that they had lost the female vampire they had caught making an unauthorized kill. Serene had set down guidelines for feeding. He knew this one, she had named herself Rayge. Markuss and Donovan watched as she ran over one of their comrades, leaving him crushed and twitching in the mud-covered asphalt. They decided to go back to her kill and finish him off. He appeared dead but they could still hear his heart beating. Markuss and Donovan slashed open both of his wrists and drank until his heart stopped. Olivia awoke in a state of confusion, momentarily forgetting the night before. She and her sister were lying in a pile of blankets in the the semi trailer. The doors were open and she blearily staggered out. Approximately fifteen people were seated around a campfire. Olivia looked around and
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realized that this was the campsite that her family had occupied when her younger brother had been taken in the night and then killed her mother. She peered around nervously, noting the area her mother's body had occupied before they buried her. She decided to join the others at the fire, it was cold and she was hungry. She decided to awaken her sister so that she could eat also. Alissa was not hard to rouse, but she awoke with a small scream, her eyes wide with terror from some kind of nightmare. Olivia was used to this and gently told her that it was just a dream and to come and have something to eat. Alissa rose slowly, rubbing tears from her eyes. Breakfast was potatoes, sausage, eggs, and bacon all thrown together in a hash. Apparently they had found a good source for clean supplies. Everyone took enough to sustain them but Alissa was not hungry. Olivia worried about her, knowing that this usually happened after Alissa had a particularly bad dream. She sat on a log away from the others, shivering. Olivia asked the oldest person there if she could get a blanket for her sister. "My name is Harvey, young lady, and yes, she needs one." "Thank you, Harvey." Olivia got out a small comforter and wrapped it around her sister. Alissa mumbled a "Thank you." and huddled deeper into the blanket. Olivia heaped

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a bit of food onto a paper plate and offered it to Alissa, but to no avail. Harvey watched all this, a wrinkle of concern furrowing his brow. "Go on and eat young lady, get some meat on them bones." Alissa regarded him as if she was looking through him, then accepted the plate, picking at it with a plastic fork. Olivia helped herself to some and ate it as quickly as she could without embarassing herself. When she had finished, she walked over and sat on the log beside her sister, reaching one arm around her and hugging her close. "You want to talk about it?" Alissa paused, a thoughtful look on her face. "This is where mom died." "Yes, I noticed that." "I had a dream about Jimmy." Olivia didnt know what to say, so she just held her sister for a moment, then let her resume eating. The woman that had let them into the back of the semi had been watching them. Olivia smiled at her meekly and the woman walked over to the two sisters. "My name is Joanne, my husband over there is Harvey, and this is our son Cole." Cole walked over and shook the girls hands, slightly smiling at Olivia. She gazed up at him, having not noticed him before. He was good looking, with
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short brown hair in a military cut and a strong, stocky build, but he was all muscle. His green eyes lit up as he watched her study him. His mother cleared her throat and told him to go and sit down. Olivia watched him for a time, then joined her sister inside the comforter. A younger looking boy came over and introduced himself as Rick Wilton. He pointed out his family. His uncle was Jerry Wilton, and his aunt was Cher Wilton. He was noticably darker skinned with black hair in a military cut and brown eyes. He was well built with wide shoulders and narrow hips, not unlike his uncle's. His aunt sat apart from the rest, silently regarding the girls. She was very pretty and young looking in contrast to the uncle, who, though young looking himself, was given away by deep lines in his forehead and around his eyes. Rick asked if there was anything he could get for them and Olivia declined with a "Thanks anyway". The locals were starting to catch on that there was some kind of vampirism going on in their village. Too many young girls were turning up dead with neck wounds. It was time to move on. At daybreak they found an abandoned barn and slept near the back of the building. They were just settling in when the door burst open and a female sped inside, barring the door behind her. She sniffed the air and realized she was not alone. Crystal, Todd, and Shane sat up and stared at her in surprise. Devon remained asleep.
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"Oh....I didn’t realize that this place was taken, I'll find another place. Shane couldn’t help but stare, she was the most beautiful vampire since he had seen Rhiannon. She had long black hair with silver streaks running from both temples and there was no way of telling her age. "Oh, you can stay here." He stuttered She silently crossed the barn floor and laid back a short distance away from the Crows. Shane watched her for a short time until he could no longer keep his eyes open. The Crows and their guest awoke with the setting sun. Shane decided to introduce himself. She shook his hand and told him that her name was Rayge. He found the name to be unusual, but accepted it. She was too beautiful to question. They went out into the night, searching for more fresh blood to satisfy their painful hunger. Shane walked closely with Rayge, trying hard to forget Rhiannon. This girl had to have been taken at somewhere around eighteen years old. She was not as voluptious as Rhiannon, but was very athletic with a strong build. Her pure white skin reflected the full moonlight that shone upon her and he realized that when she glanced in his direction, her eyes glowed slightly with a blue light. He had seen Crystal and Todd when they were being affectionate and knew why her eyes shone that color. He was pleased by what it could mean.
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Onyx swung his blade across the other vampire's neck, hoping to slash his throat deeply enough to end this fight. He had been attacked by two while hunting. One was a smoldering, blackened corpse that had spontaneously combusted when Onyx drove the point of his blade into his temple. The other vampire choked on his own black blood while trying to hold the deep cut closed with one hand, the other reaching for his own blade. Onyx dodged backwards, avoiding his powerful swing. The other vampire continued to choke, then fell back onto the pavement, gagging and convulsing. Onyx stood his ground, watching him die. Soon he was still and his body imploded with a loud hiss, the blood drying almost immediately. Onyx looked around for something to wipe the blood from his knife, but there was nothing to do so with, so he slid it into it's sheath. His hunger was great and growing with each minute, so he resumed his hunt. He smelled life somewhere nearby, but it was so remote that he did not know whether it was human or animal. It did not matter as he had been living on animal blood for several nights. Onyx walked for two hours, following the scent. As he neared the quarry he realized that it was not one, but several humans. A farmhouse came into sight and he formulated a plan. He approached the front door and knocked. The door opened a crack and a young girl peered out. "Who are you?" She spoke with some difficulty, obviously knowing very little English.
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"I need a bed for the night," He replied "There is danger out here." The girl considered this for a moment, then closed the door. He could hear her speaking to her mother about him. The door opened slightly, and an older, chubby woman looked him over. Deciding that he was no threat, she opened the door and let him into the house. He acted very cordially, speaking to the daughter in very simple english and the girl translating his words to her mother. He was led into a room that was empty save for a mattress on the floor with some blankets. He thanked them and laid back on it, pretending to feel sleepy. The night wore on, the minutes feeling like hours as his hunger grew. Finally, he was able to sense that everyone in the house was asleep. He slipped from his room and became a luminous mist, flowing under the door to the master bedroom where the mother and father were sleeping. He regained his form and stepped to the father's bedside. The man lay upon the covers, not under them. Onyx used his long fingernails to rip out the man's throat, silencing him immediately. As he fed from the man's gaping wound he reached over and slashed the mother's throat just enough to silence her as well. She sat up, gagging on her own blood, shock whitening her face. Onyx grabbed the back of her neck and sank his teeth into her right breast. She fought him, her struggles becoming weaker by the second.
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He decided to leave the children, his hunger was already sated for now. He strode through the living room and out the door. Maybe he could come back tomorrow and finish the job. Harvey addressed the rest of the survivalists. He made it plain that there had to be a ruling factor in the vampire armies that decimated the cities. They were just too organized to be without someone laying out some sort of strategy. He wanted to kill the ruling factor off because he believed that this would weaken the rest of the vampires, a sort of divide-and-conquer idea. The other survivalist had their doubts, however. There was such a large difference in the vampire-human ratio that they were unsure about Harvey's reasoning that this was a battle that could be won. They remained silent about their doubts, however. Harvey had been right about so many things that they trusted his leadership. They had to find more survivors to add to their ranks. The two young girls they had recently found were skittish and remained a distance from them. It was obvious that the two had been through some very traumatic events. Alissa and Olivia only joined the others when there was food to be eaten. They were not to be questioned about their past just yet. Harvey had forbade anyone to try. Onyx was slightly disappointed when he returned to the farmhouse. The children had fled. It would be no problem to track them down and take them. Onyx scented the air and walked westward, the cool desert air blew
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through his shoulder-length black hair. A coyote howled somewhere in the distance, but Onyx decided not to track the animal down. He wanted the children. Soon he came to an abandoned car. The windows had been broken, but it was still intact. The scent seemed to be coming from it. He crept up to a door and peered inside. A small boy sat on the floor in the passenger side of the front, obviously stationed as a lookout while the girl slept. The child began to scream something to his sister in spanish and she awakened. Onyx ripped the door off and made a grab for the girl, but she managed to slip from his grasp and flung the door on the other side of the car open. She took her brother's hand and the two ran out into the darkness. Onyx was in no hurry, he was in the mood for some fun anyway, and tracking was always entertaining. He strode after them, the darkness as light as day to his eyes. He could see them getting further away, running as fast as they could. Onyx decided to catch up. With inhuman speed, he was suddenly before them. They stopped, unsure about their next move. The girl pushed her brother behind her and snapped a branch off a dead tree to her right. She stood her ground, holding the branch before her. Onyx smiled at her, coyly raising his hands. "What is that for, little sister?"
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She jabbed the stick at him. "For you, monster. I put this through your heart." Onyx slowly stepped forward. He had to admire her courage. Her younger brother clutched her leg, his face filled with terror, tears streaming down his cheeks. The girl had called him a monster, but he knew that he was not. He decided to let the two go. With a flash of light, Onyx transformed into a large black hawk and took flight, leaving the quarry behind. They had earned the right to survive. Crystal shaped her son's hands into the gestures for transformation, reciting to him the sacred words she had learned. Devon had tried many times to morph, but always failed. Patiently, Crystal manipulated his hands again, but to no avail. Devon stood and angrily stomped away, frustration taking its toll on his emotions. Shane and Rayge sat together toward the back of the barn, talking in hushed voices, not noticing the boy's tantrum. Crystal followed him outside. "You must be patient, the ability will come." He glanced in her direction briefly, his eyes changing from red to blue in the darkness. "I know, mommy....I know I can morph. I'm just tired of trying right now." Crystal smiled and embraced her son. He hugged her back, his tantrum over. "Mommy, what am I?"
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"We are vampires." "Why am I a vampire? All of the books I have read say that you have to be bitten and die to be a vampire." They had had this discussion before. Crystal knew that her son could never comprehend that he was different, born of two vampires, therefore a living vampire. Serene had come to her in a dream and told her when she was pregnant that her son would change the world. Of all the things that she knew, she knew that Serene was one to be feared. Crystal did not know how she knew this, she just knew, and she planned to keep her son as far away from her as possible.

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Out of Annihilation Chapter 11

The holding pens in Los Angeles were now deserted, the human prisoners had been drained of all their use to the vampires. The buildings stood in wreckage from the bombs that had sent a wall of flames and destruction through the city. Occasionally a stray animal wandered the streets, only to be snatched up by either homeless humans or the more predatory vampires. The city had been destroyed, but surviving humans remained in small defensive groups. The vampires made a game of hunting them down and feeding upon them. Some humans offered themselves to the vampires, tired of weakness and hunger and disease, their only hope left was to become what they feared most. The vampires made sport of torturing these hapless

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individuals, biting them in numerous parts of their bodies and leaving them to die without receiving the dark gift. The human survivors were equally as cruel. After so much hardship in the years after the bombing occured, there was very little humanity left in their hearts. After all, the humans knew that the other countries had only bombed them because of the vampire infestation. If a lone vampire was captured by the humans, he or she would be tortured or beaten to death. The humans took great delight in their "cause", which of course was revenge. Many humans took to cannibalism, their minds demented to the point of extreme perversion and lust for killing. The poisonous rain and snow had finally stopped, but drinking water was still a danger. This of course was no problem for the vampires, who did not want water. Humans, though, needed it to survive, radioactive or not. More humans lay dead in the streets every day, either from radiation sickness, attacks from other humans, or vampire kills. The corpses were taken shortly after death by the cannibals. Nothing was ever wasted, not even human flesh. Devon had finally given up on trying to morph for the time being and decided to pursue his hunger instead. Night had fallen once again. Shane, Rayge, Crystal, and Todd went out with him. There was a cantina nearby and they decided to look there for sustenance.

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The cantina was lit up with neon signs and old Christmas lights hanging from it's eaves. They entered through a pair of swing doors and took in the scene. Dancers stood nude on tables, allowing several rough-looking men to touch them, but not for long. Obviously, the cantina was also a Brothel. A large, grizzled looking man scooped a thin mexican girl from a table and carried her up a flight of stairs located in the back of the room. Devon stood, wide eyed and confused by what he saw before him. He was not used to seeing such behaviour, but it was a fact of life in this area, and though Crystal wanted to cover his eyes or take him back outside, she swallowed her disgust and the five of them found a table and sat down. A topless waitress came over and asked in spanish what they would be drinking. Rayge immediately ordered a tequila and Shane followed suit. Once delivered, the mugs sat undisturbed on the table as the Crows began to devise a plan in their joined thoughts as to how they would feed. Onyx sensed other vampires nearby, two males, by the scent that was carried to him by the relentless wind of the desert. Soon he approached them. One was stocky with dark hair and dark brooding eyes, staring into a fire the two had built, the other was tall and well muscled, with short blondish hair cut military-style. The stocky one noticed his presence almost immediately and pulled a gun from his belt and aimed it at Onyx's head. "Looks like we have some more competition for blood, Donovan."
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The muscular comrade circled around behind Onyx and Markuss stood up slowly, carefully keeping the gun aimed at him. Donovan pulled a long knife from the back of his belt. Onyx stood his ground not showing any fear to these two. Markuss stepped up to Onyx and pressed the muzzle of the gun to his head. This was a mistake. Onyx moved in a flash, gripping the gun by the barrel and wrenching it from the other vampires grasp, he flung it out into the desert. In the same movement he spun around and caught Markuss in the jaw with the back of his fist. Donovan stabbed the blade into Onyx's midsection, causing him to falter long enough for Markuss to recover from the blow. Onyx pulled the knife out of his stomach and threw it back at Donovan, sinking the point deep into his skull. Donovan exploded, black blood and flesh covering Onyx from behind. Markuss looked around for the gun, but to no avail. Onyx was on him, dragging his long fingernails across his throat, making four long, deep slashes that he knew Markuss would not recover from, almost severing the vampire's head from his body. Markuss clutched at his throat, but his blood was gushing so severely that he could not pull the flesh back together, in his attempts to do so he tore off a ragged strip of skin. After a few minutes he crumbled into dust. The plan was made and communicated to every mind in the small band of vampires that sat at a table in the brothel. Crystal made her way to the door
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and stretched out her arms, concentrating. No one noticed this until flames shot up from the floor, creating a wall of magical fire. Panic overtook the patrons and they rushed to the small windows, picking up chairs to smash through them. The rest of the vampires rose from the table and uttered an incantation as one, transforming into half-wolves. Devon joined his mother near the entrance, unable to morph, but attacking those nearby with the same zeal. He noticed one of the nude dancers nearby and threw her against a wall. She shrieked with terror and Devon clamped a hand over her mouth as he sank his teeth into her right breast. She fainted dead away as he fed, moving from her breast to her underarm and sinking his teeth into the large vein located there. The magical flames at the door resumed burning, keeping the patrons from leaving via the exit. A man was stuck in one of the two small windows. Rayge dragged him back into the brothel and slashed at him with giant Lycanthropic claws. She tore the flesh from his chest, revealing most of his ribs on his left side. She buried her claw in his lower abdomen and tore upwards, spilling several organs and intestines onto the floor. She buried her snout in his wrecked stomach and drank the blood that flowed freely from his torn liver. He died quickly, so she moved on. The next thing on the menu was one of the shameless whores that mounted the stairway two steps at a time when she saw the blood soaked wolf-creature coming for her. Rayge followed her up
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the stairs. She caught the woman's ankle and nearly tore her foot off dragging her back down the stairs. She bit hard into the struggling woman's inner thigh and the whore screamed in pain, trying to pull away from the monster. Rayge, let go of the woman just long enough to strike her across the temple, rendering her unconscious. She then returned to the place she had been feeding from before. Crystal stood and watched as the others tore the brothel and everyone in it apart. A man rushed in her direction, gun drawn. He fired the pistol at close range into Crystal's ribs before she could focus her attention upon him. She felt a moment of pain and the blast rendered her deaf for a few seconds. She grasped the man's wrist and crushed it, causing him to drop the weapon. She tore his arm from its socket, the flesh stretching and tearing. She tossed the dismembered arm aside and stepped onto his head, feeding from the blood that spouted like a small geyser from the empty hole. A few people had escaped the brothel and disappeared into the night, some in vehicles, others on foot. Blood soaked into the wooden floor as the Crows regained their human form and finished off any patrons and whores that were still alive. Devon sat in a corner and watched his parents and friends as they worked. Crystal walked to the doorway and extended her arms into the fire, pulling it back into her body through the palms of her hands.

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Serene and Jason watched the entire massacre through the viewing window with great interest. The boy had not transformed along with the others. He would learn soon enough. Serene wanted to take him while he was still vulnerable. She had plans for him, plans that did not include his survival. She was the mother and master of the armies of the the succubus demons. She had been mated with Asmodeus, another General of demonic armies, but had escaped him to live among those infected with Vampirism. Her beautiful daughters, the succubae, had taken men and women before time was measured and began the plague of vampirism on the planet. With the blood of a living vampire, she could regain her full power over not only the armies of the succubae, but also the incubus hordes of hell, her male offspring that had been withheld from her by Asmodeus. She would create a world where she would be lord and master. Her rule would be enforced by her children, long unable to walk by daylight.

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Alissa and Olivia were finally warming up to their new friends. Olivia had her sights set on Harvy's son, Cole Everette, attracted primarily to his boyish good looks and hazel eyes that always seemed to have a smile in them no matter what the situation was. The two sat together, talking about nothing in particular, but enjoying each other's company. Cole stretched out and put his arm around her. Olivia giggled and the two kissed for several seconds. Alissa sat and talked with Jackie Reynolds, who was nearly twelve years old. Alissa and Jackie had become friends almost immediately. The younger girl had few people that were even close to her age and she was shy like Alissa. Although Jackie was young, her eyes seemed much older than her years, her sad eyes communicating that she was growing up too quickly. She had been witness to her father's own death, he had been ripped apart before her very eyes in a church massacre when the deacons hadn’t bound one of the vampires tightly enough. Only she, her sister, Tracey, and their mother had gotten out of the church alive. Her mother, Jude Reynolds, had severe lacerations to her face and neck, but she had survived. They had joined the survivalists when Harvey Everette and his family founded the group. Harvey was a high ranking Marine veteran and he put his group through rigorous daily work excercising and training in methods of killing vampires. Ammunition was of good supply, but he did not want to use much of it for target shooting. He already had picked Cole, Dale McDermott, and Jerry
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Wilton as his best riflemen. Dale was in good shape, being thirty-seven and had once been a personal trainer for a gym before America had become a nightmare. Jerry Wilton was forty-two and was once a Marine before he became an Army Ranger. He looked young for his age, with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes. His wife, Cher, also looked younger than her thirty years, with black hair and large, dark, penetrating eyes. Harvey strolled over to his son, interrupting Cole and Olivia's affections. "I want you to take a small group and scout out the town down the road here. No girls, got it?" Cole hopped down from the rock he and Olivia had been sitting on and walked over to the fire where the men were warming themselves. "I need three of you to come with me and scout out the town." Jerry Wilton, his nephew Rick and his son Seth rose from their seats. The four of them got their gear and Jerry slung his rifle over his back by it's strap. They walked to the highway and started their short journey to the nearby town.

The town seemed deserted. Garbage blew about in the street and there did not seem to be even one window in any building that was still intact. Jerry knew that if there were any vampires here that they would all be asleep. He
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was only worried about the human factor, there was no telling what people would do if they came across any. The town was mostly suburban neighborhood with a small business district. Suddenly, from one of the darkened buildings came the sound of a man screaming. The four survivalists froze, trying to figure out where the screams were coming from. The boys waited for Jerry to tell them what to do. He stood for a while, listening until the screaming stopped, then he pointed at a warehouse and motioned for them to follow him.

It was very dark inside the warehouse, the only light came from the wrecked doorway. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness they could see a large group of humans crouched in a circle, passing something around. Jerry looked hard and realized that they were eating what appeared to be a human leg. They did not notice the four strangers standing by the door. Rick, grabbed Jerry's shoulder and pointed to the far corner. A man was hung by his wrists a foot from the floor, he was still alive, As the scene became clearer, Jerry could see that large strips of flesh had been peeled off the man's body and his bones were showing through in many places. One leg was missing from the knee down, having been roughly sawed off by the cannibals. A pool of sticky blood was spreading from the corner

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and Jerry realized that the man would not live much longer. He also realized that they had to get out of the warehouse before they were noticed. He motioned silently to the aghast boys to go back out the door just as one of the cannibals noticed them.

The cannibal rose and yelled out something unintelligible to the rest of his friends. Jerry and the boys reentered the street, looking around for someplace to hide. The cannibals began to come out of the warehouse and Jerry shot one in the head with his rifle. The other cannibals swarmed over their dead comrade. Rick, Cole, and Seth also drew guns and began to shoot at the hungry mob, bringing down the closest ones. Soon eighteen cannibals were reduced to ten. A woman with crazed eyes shouted to the rest of them to fall back. The cannibals withdrew, dragging their dead friends back into the warehouse with them, forgetting Jerry and the boys. Apparently feeling that they now had a good eating supply. Even though Jerry felt that they should leave this town immediately, they did have to try to gather as many supplies as they could. They scouted out a grocery store, finding several dead, bloated bodies and some canned goods. Jerry had Richard get a shopping cart and they piled the cans into it. There was an Army Surplus store nearby and they checked it too. A skeleton that must have once been the owner was slumped over the desk. The place
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was pretty well picked-over, but Seth found some 22 caliber bullets in cases inside a medium sized box. This was put in the cart also. There was a mall just down the street, so they decided it might be worth the trouble to check it out also.

It was dark inside the mall and Jerry dug a flashlight out of his backpack. Several of the stores were intact, with steel gates drawn over the entrances. Jerry rooted through Seth's pack and got out a small hand saw. He had Rick hold the flashlight while he sawed the locks apart. They piled clothing, cooking utensils, knives, handheld CB's, and batteries on the offchance that they might still be good. Rick and Seth filled their pockets with old candy to distribute among the rest of the teens.

When they arrived back at the camp Jerry spoke privately with Harvey about the cannibles and what they had witnessed in the warehouse and the short battle that followed. Harvey agreed that it would be best to break camp and move on to someplace safer. Crystal lay upon an old mattress while Todd inspected the injury to her ribs. The bullet had gone all the way through and out the back, so there was no bullet to dig out. She had exhausted herself by creating the wall of flame so she was not healing as fast as she would have been able to otherwise. As
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he covered the wound back up he noticed that her eyes were fixed, unblinking, upon the ceiling as if she was someplace far away from him. He decided to let her rest. Crystal could see Serene coming for her son. In her minds eye see could see her coming closer every minute. The weakness from her injury was fading and she knew that they were going to have to leave soon. She knew that Serene was formulating some sort of plan for her son, but she did not know what that was yet. She only knew that it was not in his best interest.

The rest of the Crows and Rayge sat downstairs among the bodies of their recent kills. Devon was trying to morph again. Seeing his parents and freinds change inspired him to do so. He mimicked the incantation that he heard the others say and his body flickered for a moment. His pulse raced with the same fear that always held him back in the past, but he kept his composure. He flickered again and he saw his hands lengthen, the nails growing longer and more pointed, then they shrunk back to their original shape. He felt a surge of joy and hurried to his father to try again where someone could see what he could accomplish. He concentrated on his hands again and uttered the incantation and as Todd watched, the boy's arms and hands began
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to transform. The fur traveled up his arms to his shoulders. Devon became excited and the transformation stopped, then faded.

"What happened? Why didn’t it finish?" Devon asked his father. "You must remain calm and focused for the transformation to complete." Devon sat down and tried to control his breathing, Todd wrapped one arm around the boy's shoulders. "You can do it, before long you will be able to morph into anything you want to be." Crystal rose from the mattress and slowly walked back down the stairs. The sun would rise soon, and they had to move on to a safer place. Any one of the people that escaped could come back with friends while they slept. Devon rose and raced to her side. "I did it mom, I got my arms to turn!" He embraced her, carefully avoiding the bloody spot on her shirt. "Thats great, Devon.......I knew you could do it." She returned his hug and kissed his forehead. They found a car outside the brothel that was in good shape and had a key magnetically attached just inside the bumper. Crystal climbed into the back seat with Devon and Todd, while Shane and Rayge took the front seats.

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Serene and Jason headed Southeast in the form of ravens. Jason knew what Serene wanted to do, she never kept her thoughts from him. Jason would follow Serene to the ends of the Earth, and do whatever she wished, even when it came to his old friends. Still, he felt like a traitor. Despite his loyalty to her, he missed his friends. This dilemna clouded his mind, and he knew that Serene would read him and re-assert her control.

The survivalists found an abandoned airstrip with a few broken down planes. They parked the semi outside and moved necessities inside one of the buildings. They were heading south, and now were well out of Wyoming. Colorado was not much different in terrain, they had high Mountains to their West and wide open overgrown fields on all sides. The hanger was large enough for them to park the semi in, so Harvey parked it and joined the rest in the other building. His son, Cole and Olivia were sitting by each other again, holding hands. Harvey knew that this relationship would not do any harm to his son, Olivia seemed to be a sweet, sensitive, and compassionate girl. His son had told him about what happened to her family, and she did not seem to have any psychological problems stemming from that, but her younger sister, Alissa was obviously scarred emotionally. She was different from her sister, rough and tom-boyish, though shy, but being friends with Jackie seemed to be a lot of help. The two girls were currently in a giggling,
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squealing wrestling match over some of the candy the boys had brought back. Cole walked over to the heap of clothing that some of the suvivalists were rummaging through and brought Olivia back a shirt and shorts set, wanting to see her in them. She took them and gave him a light kiss on the cheek before hurrying into an ajoining room to try them on. She re-emerged, looking as stunning as expected, her long blonde hair contrasting with the midnight blue velvet fabric. Cole caught her in his arms and the two playfully kissed.

Harvey sighed and walked over to sit with his wife, who had already picked out some clothing herself and was inspecting a shirt.

"Joanne, what should we do about that." He motioned toward Cole and Olivia, who were still holding onto each other, mimicking a waltz. "What can you do, just watch and hope that they dont do anything stupid." "Thats what I thought you would say." Harvey looped his arm around his wife and pulled her close, looking into her eyes. "Almost makes me feel that young again." Joanne laughed, "You never got past that age, dear."

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They sat for a while, watching the others. Harvey had been picking up survivors for months now. They were always appreciative of new members, especially ones that were veterans or could fight. Young people like Alissa and Olivia were welcome as well, in Harvey's mind they would be the next generation of fighters against the vampires. He knew he needed more poeple for this little army, but that would mean more mouths to feed and a steady stream of supplies, he also knew that supplies were going to be harder and harder to find. Hopefully any survivors he acquired would have supplies and food of their own. Night came and Harvey posted Jerry and Cole as watchmen at both entrances of the building. The people were restless sleepers due to traumatic past events and woke up easily. This was a good thing in their case. Harvey knew that vampires had enhanced perception in all their senses. If any were in the near vicinity they would be able to smell the living people. He had seen the telecasts with the executions of vampires, but he had also seen on these live telecasts the times when the vampires slaughtered everyone in the churches. He knew that no matter how many loaded weapons they had and no matter how well they fought, his survivalists were a feast for the vampires.

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Jerry slung his rifle over his shoulder and placed his flashlight on the ground beside his chair. He would not be doing much sitting, night watchman duty always made him nervous. He shone the flashlight into the corn field at the edge of the airstrip, looking carefully for any movement. He saw none, so he settled back into his chair. They were lucky to find this place, it was flat on all sides with no mountains or cliffs. The line of sight was clear. Cole was having trouble sitting himself. All of his thoughts were centered on Olivia, but he did his best to keep watch. She was sleeping inside, curled up with her sister, as was their habit. She was so fragile, but strong inside. Cole wanted to protect her above all else. She deserved it after all that she and Alissa had been through. Rayge and Shane had been taking turns sleeping and driving all day, but were feeling well enough to try to feed. They stopped the car outside a run-down motel and everyone got out. Crystal's wound had healed completely and she was feeling refreshed, though trouble with the remnants of her dreams. Serene was coming closer. The nightmare that Crystal experienced had involved more than just Serene, but also of horrifying demons. Todd read her thoughts. "Are you okay?" "Yes, just a bad nightmare." "Looks to me like it's more than just a nightmare."
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"I hope it isn’t." Todd pulled her close and embraced her. Devon, being the child that he was despite his appearance, hurried over to get a hug too. Shane and Rayge had already gone inside the motel to search for prey. Devon lost interest in affection and ran after Shane and Rayge, hunger dominating his thoughts. They searched the motel but found nothing more than two bodies. A man and a woman had been tied to chairs with barbed wire. The woman was obviously forced to see the man die, then left to die on her own. The man's face was nothing but a ruin of mangled bone and flesh. It looked like he had been used for target practice, then shot in the face with a hollow point bullet. These two were useless to them, having obviously been dead for over a month. Crystal suddenly sensed another vampire nearby and alerted the others. They stopped searching and walked back outside the motel. The vampire was looking through the windows of the car. Shane approached him. "We don't want any trouble, so why don’t you move along." Onyx considered this for a moment. "Am I hearing this correctly? You aren't going to try to kill me?" "Only if you try first." "If I may ask, is there anything alive in that place?" Onyx asked, motioning to the motel.

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"Someone is there, but they have been dead for quite some time. Doesn’t look like our kind killed them either."

Rayge watched the conversation silently, waiting for Onyx to say something to her. She had found a new friend in James, but Onyx was an old lover. They had a relationship for almost a year, but ended up almost killing each other because they could not come to terms of understanding. They were both volatile and loved to fight, so their relationship had been a stormy one. She turned away from the others and stood alone, sorting out her thoughts. She hoped that Onyx would move on and not join with her new friends, but at the same time she was excited to see him again. She looked back and saw Devon talking with him, the boy was always friendly and interested in meeting new vampires. Onyx smiled at the child and ruffled his hair. Devon had a way of winning others over, even the solitary Onyx seemed to like him. Crystal was wary of Onyx, he seemed a lot like Shane, except for his long dark hair, but she could sense his nature. He was a very dangerous vampire, though he did not seem to mean them any harm. He would make a useful ally, and Devon, in all his innocence seemed to like this brooding vampire. She would trust him for now, but she would have to watch his actions very carefully.

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Olivia's attraction to Cole was growing by the day. He was muscular, over six feet tall, with blondish hair and blue eyes that always seemed to have a smile in them whatever his mood. When he did smile he made her feel like she would melt. He was only a month older than herself. She noticed Harvey's scrutiny and did her best to prove that she could be a benefit to the group. Alissa was healing from the traumatic events that had happened in their lives, but her nightmares kept Olivia close to her when they slept. She knew that Alissa was re-experiencing the terror of the past few years. With this group of survivors they did feel a sense of safety and security. She and her sister had been prepared to die and be reborn as vampires, but they had been saved from what could have been another tragic experience by these people. Now Olivia and Alissa wanted to live, to be human.

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Out of Annihalation

Chapter 12 Serene was hungry. She and Jason had been flying for days without nourishment. They were nearing their objective. Serene knew that the boys powers were growing and they did not have much time to take him before his full realization of his abilities. They were deep into Mexico now, and they were likely to find healthy prey. They transformed once again into their human-like forms and walked along a dirt road. They were nearing a small chicken farm, and Serene noticed a loaded clothesline outside the small shack that a dim light shone from. As they approached the house Serene shed her robe. The empty feeling inside them was overwhelming and they and approached the house. They could smell the living blood inside and they
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searched for an open window. Unfortunately all of the windows were latched closed. Serene mentally laid out a plan and communicated it to Jason. She walked, naked and unabashed to a bedroom window and Jason strode quickly to a window near the door. Through it he could see a mexican man sleeping in a rocking chair, a shotgun lay across his lap. Jason knew that he would have to work quickly to avoid being shot. He smashed the window and leapt through, transforming into a wolf as he moved. The man stood up from the rocking chair and tried to aim the gun at the creature, but Jason brought him down easily. The man tried to cover his throat with his arms, screaming something in spanish. A woman hurried from the bedroom and grabbed a poker from the fireplace. Jason lacerated the man's arms with his teeth in a frenzy. Another crash came from the bedroom and Serene materialized behind the woman, gripping her head and twisted it violently to the side, snapping it and paralyzing her. Jason slashed the man's arms to the bone and drank from the open wounds. Serene sank her teeth into the woman's skull, slicing her scalp and crushing through the cranium. The man, in his efforts to protect his throat, left his midsection open and Jason slashed his belly, burying his snout in it. They fed until the two were dead. Serene filled the bathtub with water and slid into it, calling Jason to join her. He morphed back into human form and climbed into the large, clawfooted tub. Once again, he marveled at Serene's beauty. She pressed her body
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against his affectionately, her hunger sated. The two rolled in the water, sex was what Serene wanted now. The two left the house and approached the clothesline, searching for something to wear. Serene selected a black shirt and jeans, tearing out the back of the shirt for her wings. Jason found a faded pair of pants and the two dressed quickly. Serene wanted to find the boy, her appetites for blood and sexual contact sated for the time being. Onyx decided to stay with the Crows. He liked them, and was especially fascinated with the boy, Devon. He knew that Rayge was uncomfortable with him near, but he decided to disregard that. She was obviously quite attracted to Shane, and Onyx felt a pang of jealousy. She was a great lover, but if they had stayed together it was likely that one or the other of them would be dead by now. They had parted ways long ago. It was feeding time again, but they did not know where they would get fresh blood. The countryside was barren of animals and humans were sparse. Serene and Jason were once again on the wing when they spotted six vampires traveling along one of the many dirt roads. Serene swooped down and landed on the branch of a nearby tree. Jason followed her. He recognized his friends, but three of the group were new. He tried to read Serene's intentions, but found an unusual block. He saw Crystal look about, wild panic

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in her eyes and he realized that one of the new additions to the group was Crystal's son, the living vampire that he knew Serene wanted. Serene hopped to the ground and rose in her human-like form, her wings spreading wide. She tilted her head back and laughed, the sound echoing in the still air. Once again, her eyes shone bright red in the darkness and transparent forms slipped from them. Serene's hair turned to flame as the forms solidified. The beautiful succubus daughters of Lilith surrounded the frightened Crows, laughing along with their mother. Jason watched the scene in fascination, remembering what had happened to the Council. Crystal looped her arm around her son and concentrated. Wings of black feather grew from her back and she carried Devon high into the air. The succubae followed her, clutching at the boy. Crystal concentrated again and flame shot from her free hand, enveloping the red skinned demons. Laughter turned to screams as the succubae fell to the ground, wrapped in magical flame. Serene was surprised by Crystal's power. She had not known a newly reborn to have the strength to produce flame in such a way. Ordinary fire would not have affected her demon daughters, but Crystal's flame was damaging them. Several more took to the air, trying to take the boy. Crystals strength was diminishing, but she fought the succubae valiantly. Her friends were surrounded by the demons also, fighting for their lives with weaponry
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they had recovered from kills. Onyx slashed at a demon with a sword, cleaving her head in two. Two more of the succubae leaped upon him, driving him to the ground. He brought the point of the sword up over his own head, piercing another demon-woman's skull. She slipped off his back and crumbled to dust. The other Crows fired guns at the demons, causing very little effect. Finally, Devon was wrenched from Crystals grasp and she fell to the ground, her strength gone. Serene waved a hand and the ground opened up. The succubae entered the opening with the struggling boy and Serene followed them. Crystal dragged herself to her feet and dove into the hole, closely followed by Todd and Shane. Onyx and Rayge also entered the opening just before it slammed shut, leaving Jason alone in shock. He realized that he had been the betrayer, used by Serene to obtain that which she wanted. The Crows and their friends found themselves alone in a huge void. The Succubae and Serene were nowhere to be seen. Ahead of them they could see what looked like a huge midieval kingdom surrounded by a wide moat of fire. Above them was a fiery sky with black clouds. The heat in this place was searingly intense. Serene and several of her daughters entered the ruins of a temple outside the Kingdom of Chaos. The boy had fainted and lay limply in Serene's strong arms. One erect wall was outfitted with an upright coffin. Serene lifted
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Devon into it and one of the succubae fastened metal bands around his head, midsection and both arms and legs. He began to stir, slowly awakening from his slumber. His eyes opened and he noticed that he was restricted. He struggled weakly at his bonds. Crystal still felt too weak to walk, having spent all of her energy battling the demons. Todd lifted her from her feet and carried her, walking toward the kingdom. The others followed. Crystal stirred as they neared the moat of fire. "He is not there." Todd was confused, where else would Serene have taken their son? "Where is he?" Crystal pointed at a ruined temple that none of them had noticed. "We have to hurry, he does not have much time." No longer did Serene have to keep a human-like form. The pale flesh and red hair fell from her body and head. Her skin was bright scarlet beneath and her feet became cloven hooves, her lower legs covered with thick black hair. Her arms hung to her knees and her fingers stretched to nearly a full foot long with great black hooked talons. Her hair was orange and blue flame and her eyes turned a golden color. She was now Lilith, terrifyingly deformed and horrific, wife of the three-headed Asmodeus, mother of the incubus and succubus children of hell. Devon saw her for the first time and screamed. He
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had never seen anything so horrifying. Devon attempted to transform to smoke to break free, but to no avail. He tried to remember the gestures and words, but it did not help the situation. His hands were bound by the metal bands. Lilith approached him, grinning obscenely in a skull-like face with a mouthful of razor sharp teeth. She stroked his cheek with her long fingers. It was almost a comforting gesture. He screamed again and fought at his bonds. Crystal and the others heard Devon's screams and they raced to the temple, Crystal was back on her feet, still weak but recovered enough to keep up with the others. Inside the ruins they spotted Devon inside a coffin-like apparatus. A horrifying demon that Crystal knew was Serene was poised over the child. Todd shouted at the demon-woman, trying to distract her. She turned and hissed at him like a cat, motioning to her daughters to attack them. Onyx was once again brought down by a succubus and Rayge grabbed a fistful of her dark hair, prying the demon off him. He took advantage of the diversion and cut off her head, leaving it dangling from Rayge's hand. She flung it aside and took the steps leading into the temple two at a time, closely followed by Todd, Onyx and Shane. Crystal regained her strength and entered the ruined structure. Soon, the others were battling the daughters of Lilith again and Crystal fought her way through the melee. Lilith already had her teeth in Devon's neck as he struggled weakly. Crystal placed one hand on the
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creature's back and summoned up her remaining energy. Lilith was suddenly enveloped in magical flame, her crimson skin melting off her bones. She released Devon from her grasp and tried to put out the flames. Realizing that nothing could save her, she leapt upon Crystal and the flames crawled over the two of them, melding them together. Todd screamed for Crystal but it was too late. She and Lilith were now one, combined, their spirits soared from their blackening bodies, entering the gates of the medieval kingdom of hell. The succubae, noticing that their mother was gone, withdrew and flew over the moat, their screams of anger echoing in the searing hot air. The boy had a badly ripped neck, but he was already starting to heal. He knelt beside the jumble of blackened bones, unable to comprehend that his mother was dead. Todd walked to his side and looped a comforting arm around the boy's shoulders, pulling him close. "She gave her life for you." A loud splitting sound distracted them. The red sky opened up and they could see the night sky through the crack. The moonlight shone into the void Shane, Rayge, and Onyx transformed into crows and soared through the crack. Todd held onto his son and only halfway transformed, lifting the boy out of the bowels of hell with him. A tall dark woman made her way through the trees of the Arkansas forest. Her lover had been killed in a blast that temporarily trapped her inside
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the old mine shaft where they had hidden to sleep for a day. That all happened several years ago. She had been able to feed once on a child who's curiosity was fatal, giving her the strength she needed to clear enough of an opening to escape. She knew that something terrible had happened to the world, but that was only a minor thought in her sociopathic mind. For now........all she knew was that she was hungry.

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