Ealasaíd stretched under the stars in the cool night wind.
At just over six feet tall, she was slender in the manner of her kind, with her belly flat, breasts medium-small and muscles lithe. Long graceful limbs flowed as only an Elf could unconsciously move.
She had unbound her hair, in daylight the light yellow-white of morning sunlight on white cloth, and it hung to her buttocks. Her skin was pale, and she wore a long flowing blue tunic over soft grey leggings, the hem slightly longer at front and rear. Pointed sleeves traced gold trim and embroidery back up the forearms, and gold trim edged neck and hem. A slight gold filament circlet with a single round Dumortierite quartz stone hanging in the centre wound across her brow. It wasn’t a particularly precious stone; she just liked its rich blue colour and the vibrations it gave off.
The day had blossomed brightly in the north of Mìthtól, on the slopes of the low northern mountains. As always she had welcomed the sunlight on her face, the warmth on her skin taking on more than normal feeling as she extended her senses and felt the energies of the star vibrating through the Great Skein. The heat and light were welcome, and she delighted in sensing the sleeting empheral particles they carried with them.
Whilst she loved the stars, she was really a child of the sun.
Few had her sensitivity. She sometimes wondered at her parent’s sense of purpose; her name meant ‘Oathkeeper’, and she had lived up to it. As did the only other two Elves fully sensitive to the dark energies of the universe, she had a great many responsibilities, and her powers were perhaps greater even than theirs. From time to time all of them required rest from channelling from the Great Skein. For her, the need to sometimes get far away from others and simply feel the vibrations of life around her, sense the energy in each cell, and rejoice in the rhythms of living in the myriad energies around her was vital.
She missed her husband, of course. He had elected to remain in the city, finishing some of his craftwork as he looked after their son.
Gentle and quiet, but sharp witted, he was one of the greatest craftsmen in fine precious metal in memory, creating fragile-seeming items of great strength and beauty highly prized by the Elves, who usually had little use for metals other than for weapons. The circlet he had created as a gift after she had given birth. They often both became lost in their skills, and together had created some items of rare form. Ealitár was a fitting partner for her, and she had born him a beautiful son.
Fórnur was not yet seven years old, but the quiet child showed great emotional sensitivity, a keen intelligence, and perhaps signs that he had similar talent, the ability to sense and even manipulate other energy – what many other races called magecraft, wizardry, sympathy, talent. It was almost unheard of that this ability would pass to a child, since only a handful of sensitives were born each generation on the entire planet, but she knew an unusual destiny awaited him.
Ealasaíd had hoped to sing tonight under a darkened moon, to feel the dance of the stars through the atmosphere as it played with their steady light, and to move with them. To be at peace.
Instead she felt strangely uneasy. Something was out of place, and for an Elf attuned to nature – and further as a mortal who could detect and use hidden energies – her instincts and senses were warning her. The feeling mounted slowly as she sought harder for her dance, her inner peace.
She shivered. As the minutes passed, a rising tension and fear were gripping her. For an Elf to feel unease in their sacred and hidden lands was unheard of, watched over and beloved as they were of the High Elves. Their powerful immortal kin lived amongst them – not ruling, but guiding. No other races came here. No dangers, no foul creatures. It was a haven of peace.
The moon was hidden, and the skies were lit only by stars. All seemed as it should be. And yet, a terrible oppression settled on her mind. Everything around her felt tense, not just the creatures but down to the very rocks. The whole world awaited something with dread.
Finally convinced that this was not her imagination, she reached out her senses to their fullest extent to find what was affecting her world.
Her mind recoiled at what she felt.
Doom approached, resplendent with the formless energies of somewhere outside the universe. A darkness, a hole, a roiling mass of hellish energy filled her mind. If Kuln fell into it, it would be erased from existence as if it had never been, thrown outside the space and time of the universe itself and rent apart into chaotic elements.
Choking, she fell to her knees, struggling with the sheer horror of it, her mind feeling the insistent pull of insanity. It was countless billions of miles away, and trailed by an expanding miasma of pandemonium throughout which much longer jagged lines of random energy coruscated, crackling dull red on blacker-than-black in her mind. They were gossamer cracks in creation, threatening to split brittle reality asunder like shattered glass. She should not have been able to sense anything at that distance, but the awful void was a tear in reality, held open with unimaginable power and moving at a velocity defying comprehension. Invisible to the naked eye, it outshone the sun to a mind sensitive to the fundamental Great Skein of the universe.
As quickly as she detected it, the rift in space-time flashed past Kuln at incalculable speeds, pouring chaos in its wake. It missed by hundreds of millions of leagues, but the very fringes of the trailing miasma blanketed parts of the planet, incredibly fine seething flails of chaos lashing out across Kuln. As if to a lodestone, many were drawn to areas of chaotic nature, causing grave and unpredictable changes of the land and creatures they encountered.
Most of the world was left untouched, while some areas were only very lightly marked, but other places and creatures were terribly warped, or had the seeds of chaos implanted deep within. Almost all the mutable areas struck directly were simply destroyed, the tendrils leaving swathes of damage across the face of the world as they passed deep into its matter. Not all affected was terrible in transformation, but anything the chaos impacted was changed.
Ealasaíd, kneeling frozen in horror with her senses extended, was struck by a coruscating multi-coloured lashing beam not much wider than her. It tore through her being, down into the earth and rock below her, threatening to rend her very fabric apart. Her mind gibbered, overwhelmed by the dark fires tearing at it, and only her familiarity with power prevented her being destroyed in that first moment.
Elves were harmonious beings, living in accord with each other and the land, and she did not know how to fight this, her antithesis. She had never experienced such seething formless nothingness, and could not defend against the unpredictable attacks coming from every direction. Desperately, she tried to hold her awareness and essence together as she felt it dissolving under the surging impacts careening through her. Against it the harmony of her body and mind seemed an aberration, and it attacked the natural order within her.
Her skin blistered, her eyesight dimmed, and everything living around her heaved in sympathy as it was perverted. She cried out in torment.
She dimly felt it changing her from her nucleus, tearing her apart at a molecular level, and she set her will and every ounce of skill she had learned in over five centuries of life towards her survival. She fought to keep her mind and body from breaking. A part of her knew that if she lost this battle, she would not only die, but be sundered from reality as herself.
Ealasaíd was one of the most powerful Elven mages in millennia, and she bent all her vast skills towards keeping herself from dissolution. She drew on the great dark Skein of energy underlying the universe, more and more power flowing through her, repairing the damage, shoring up her essence and refusing to let go. Quickly reaching the dangerous point where she could not safely handle the flow of power, she ignored it and surpassed it twofold, fourfold, giving up more and more of herself to her focus to remain alive, until all she had left was the desire to see her family again.
It was not enough. Her concentration and will – all her ability to manipulate the forces around her – could not match the seething energies. The powers she wielded as a conduit were torn from her grasp and set scourging through her being until even that was lost to her. She should have died then, but somehow she clung to life in her unknowing heart when all other mortals would have been destroyed, refusing to give up the final spark right at the core of her being.
Her magic ravaged her from within as fully as the chaos sleeting through her body, the anarchy directing it out of her control. The chaos was not sentient, but seemed aware within her, and forced changes upon her that were against the centre defining her very self, perhaps even guided by her unconscious repulsion, her inner fears. It enhanced her exponentially in some ways, and destroyed her in others. She died, yet did not. Her body and being were warped, but remained whole.
Against all possibility, she survived.
The chaos finally passed through her after what could have been nanoseconds or could have been hours, and she fell senseless in an area of terrible destruction and change, no discernible life left within her.
For perhaps a week she lay there, unmoving, seemingly dead, but betrayed by the fact that she did not decay. No living thing came close. They could feel the horror of what had happened there. The bushes and trees were scarred and twisted, and the ground was ruined in a stripe running more than a hundred feet.
Eventually she began to revive. When she awoke it was with little memory and no coherent thought. A breath gasped, feeling oddly forced. She lay, pale and naked and somehow unmarked in the charred and shredded remains of clothes seared by the energies that had warred within her.
It was nearing sunset, and she blinked. Rising shakily to stand, she moved into a shard of fading sunlight which sent her screaming in agony to the nearest shadows, the flesh on her arm and belly smoking even from the brief contact.
There she paused, caressing her wounds and whimpering. Something in her had altered, could no longer endure the sun’s rays. The light was a new enemy, but that was all her animal mind could comprehend for now. She was not even aware of how quickly she had moved.
There were only two drives foremost within her at this moment: to hide from the sunlight which had nearly consumed her, and to heal and feed. She felt terribly weak, and a hunger deeper than any she had ever known clawed at her guts, a need for fresh sustenance that the ruins of her supplies would not provide.
She felt oddly blinded. Her sensitivity to the Great Skein had been all but burned out, torn from her. What remained had also changed, altered what she could do. There was some power there, but certain paths had been seared into her ability, and she could never again use it in any other way.
Ealasaíd stumbled through the forest, feeling alien to herself, her thoughts dark and fragmented. She did not know who she was, where she was. All the time, a hunger was growing, and her new instincts directed her through the trees.
Finally she happened across a herd of deer and stopped, sensing their life, feeling a dreadful and unknown craving. As they stood watching her curiously, trusting and unafraid, she fell upon one before the fleet creatures could react, driven by an urge no Elf had ever felt, tearing its throat out with teeth no Elf had ever possessed and with an awful strength that should have been far beyond her mortal frame.
The deer had no cause to fear Elves; they had never seen men or hunters, and lived with Elves for thousands of years without harm. They scattered, snorting screeches in alarm. Never before had an Elf killed one of them, consumed its flesh.
She drank its hot pumping blood directly from severed carotids as it lay twitching, and shrieked in ecstasy, her essence rejuvenated as she absorbed the life force from the vital creature. Its hot blood was more than just food. It carried satiation, life, rejuvenation.
Slumped by its form, her chin, throat, bare breasts and belly covered in bright red blood, she sat in a trance, her conscious mind slowly returning. As she awoke from within, she became more and more aware of how she had changed. Her body was different. Stronger. Her already fragile consciousness battled with urges so powerful they constantly threatened to overwhelm all thought and frail reason.
When she finally opened her eyes, she stared in shock at the slaughter. She could hear everything around her in startling clarity, see clearly the brutal carnage in the dim twilight, taste the tang of blood in her mouth, feel the sharp teeth of a killer with her tongue. Her body vibrated with power from the feeding, and the urge to vomit was overridden by the urge for more.
The feeling of killing a helpless victim in terror was fresh, a stimulant. Horror and intoxication warred within at the betrayal of her most primal self, and her mind was torn this way and that as she felt the tremendous power within her dampening her once-true nature.
Her body was not designed to eat flesh. She should have been violently ill, but instead she felt replenished, and the idea of vegetables sickened her. No Elf had ever been like this.
In the midst of her rapidly fragmenting rationality, she realised that the abomination she could feel she had become would never be accepted by her husband and son. Her people would shun her. She had survived, at terrible cost, and it was meaningless. Her kin were as lost to her as if she had died. She would be outcast, the ultimate perversion of what her people were. Chaotic. Insane. A slayer, an unnatural drinker of blood.
She could never be with her loved ones again. Even as she thought of them, her hunger grew at the thought, craving their hot blood, and her mind snapped its last fragile threads to sanity.
She laughed, throwing her head back and shrieking over and over again, louder and louder in terrible insane mirth. Creatures within hearing fled, hearing death and horror in that voice. She laughed and wept and tore at the corpse, scattering it in a horrific orgy of bloodlust.
For more than a week she moved at night towards her home, naked and filthy, her mind in tatters. She killed every night, running down prey on foot with ease. Nothing could escape. She did not tire, and moved like the wind. She saw as if in daylight and could feel the very presence of life.
Every morning, she dug herself a hole to hide from the sun, to sleep and dream red dreams. Once greeted with love and laughter, now it was a great enemy greeted with hisses and fear, illuminating her as a monster and threatening pain and death, yet her resolved never wavered.
She had not survived the ravages of chaos to succumb now!
Finally she came upon her city in the night, and skulked through the forest around the buildings of cloth, her perfect flesh filthy and long hair matted. Hearing a noise which she simultaneously yearned for and despised, she sought it and met a young man wandering the starlight, singing to himself softly in the manner of Elves. There were no guards in this city, no night time fears. No death and terror had ever come here.
He saw her, soiled and naked in the moonlight, and rushed to aid her. She repaid him with death, weeping softly until he held her and then tearing his throat out to feed on him in carnal delight, nudging at his torn throat with her nose as she drank, revelling in his violation. The death of an Elf aroused her in ways the animals had not, and she ran frenzied into the city of cloth.
The second, a young Elf girl in her teens, she slew in bed. Spattering the white sheets hanging on the walls with gore, she laughed as she did so, smelling its metallic tang rising around her. Ignoring the queries from those around that could smell the blood and hear the noise she moved on, senses reeling in a bloodlust that she had never known before, at this moment no more controllable than her new aversion to sunlight. A sudden clamour of shocked voices arose behind her, and light and alarms rose simultaneously. She ignored it all.
The third victim was another male, naked and freshly arisen to see what the alarms were. She bore him back through his door and held him down by the throat, watching him fight her single arm with all his power. She was even more aroused by his nakedness, his helplessness, and in her lust she was unsure whether to take him into her, or kill him. Not quite meaning to, she wrenched his neck to the side a little too hard in her excitement, and his neck snapped. She snarled and hurled his lifeless form twenty feet through the walls into another dwelling. More cries rose, and she ran on, fleet as a shadow even to the eyes of Elves. A few saw her, and fled in fear, recognising an unnatural dread they could not face.
As the city awoke in uproar at the first murders in their long history, she found a dwelling she recognised. Stepping inside, she found an Elf child standing staring at her. Shock and fear warred in his eyes. Another voice from the side dragged her attention, calling a name.
An Elven man stood there, taking in her filth and blood, speaking with horror and compassion in his voice. She heard the words, understood them, but ignored them. Laughing low, she grabbed him as if he were a child, pushing him to the bed and opening her mouth. He froze in shock at the bloodied fangs there, two larger in the upper jaw and two smaller in the lower. No animal canines these, they were sharp and daintily made for letting blood and slicing. He spoke again with difficulty as her hands pressed his ribcage.
‘Ealasaíd! Where have you been? What has happened to you, my love?’
She stopped, hearing the familiar name. Her thoughts were confused, and for a second she almost knew something fleeting, something important. Then she was flooded with a sense of rage and loss that overwhelmed even her bloodlust, and in sudden anger and a deep unbearable pain thrust her hands harder into his ribcage with a cruel shriek.
That name was gone! She was no more!
Rage and lust swept over her.
The man wheezed and made a mighty effort, his delicate hands plucking weakly at her wrists as if he were but a child.
She rammed her arms forward and his sternum gave in a symphony of cracks. Her hands plunged deep into his chest. Even as he bucked in death spasms, she found his heart and tore it out in a spray of gore, sinking her sharp teeth into it. It tasted like the nectar of the gods, arousing her, and she was aware of her erect nipples jutting through the red sheen covering her front.
A whimper drew her attention back to the child. He stood frozen, tears streaming down his face. Something within her cried out against harming it, but the helplessness of this small creature washed over her like an intoxicant, burying the instinct. She grinned through her husband’s blood at her son, her teeth baring in anticipation, and began to cross the doorway to him.
Something hit her hard in the shoulder, knocking her to the side. Spinning with a growl, she saw a crowd of grim-faced Elves gathering with weapons and lights through the open door. She wrenched an arrow out and dropped it. Stepping out to face them, the child was forgotten, her attention on this new herd of prey.
A cry went up in disbelief, horrified at her appearance. Some ran, other falling to their knees.
‘Look at her eyes!’
‘She is so pale…’
‘So.. so much blood…’
‘What is she become?’
The crowd stared in shock and terror, and she stalked towards them. Another arrow hit her in the stomach, driving her back, and then another in the chest. It hurt. Blood leaked slowly, and she screamed at them in rage. In amazement, they watched her tear the arrows out and the wounds heal in seconds.
She was immortal in a way that should not have been, and not in the way the High Elves were. She horrified the Elves so deeply that they were unsure what to do. As more arrived, they too stood in disbelief at the sight in front of them.
Three Elves warily closed on her with blades, and she moved aside easily, dreamily. They seemed so slow compared to her. She tore an arm from one girl, and accepted the other two blades, knowing they could not kill her, high on her own power, laughing horribly.
The first blade sliced her side deeply, severing oblique muscles and slumping her to the side until they began to heal, drawing from the reservoir of life force within her. It hurt, but she laughed insanely.
Then the other scored lightly down her arm, and she screamed in true agony. She hurled the offender from her into the crowd, which broke his fall, and looked at her arm in disbelief. The wound was healing very slowly, and it was scarring this time. Her stare froze several Elves, but one looked up from the blade that had harmed her.
‘Silver! There is silver on this blade. She cannot stand the pure metal!’
She hissed in alarm. Sunlight had seemed her only weakness. For the first time, her voice reasserted itself, hissing out in an unrecognisable growl.
‘Pathetic fools! I will kill you all in the night. You are cattle, mine to devour.’
Gasps went up again as she flashed her bloodied fangs, grinning in feral delight. Sobs broke out from men and women who had known her, adored her. She crouched, preparing to leap amongst them, when suddenly a sense of warning had her whirling in alarm. Even with her enhanced speed, it was too late.
Light blazed up around her, a matrix of power encasing her. Shrieking, she attacked the lines, but they burned and she fell back. Two glowing forms appeared, and a third in a robe with arms spread wide. Her buried mind recognised High Elves, and a mage. She had known them once, it whispered sadly. She snarled at it.
One of the glowing forms moved near her, and she tried to grab it through the matrix, but was met with force she could not penetrate. It looked at her gravely for a long time, and something in its face held her gaze. This being had no trouble looking into her burning mad eyes, and it did not exude prey signals. She felt wary of its power, but still no fear. Her emotions were dissolved in madness. Something seemed to brush through her mind.
‘Ealasaíd is no more,’ it said in liquid tones finally, deep sorrow in its voice. She barely registered what it was saying. ‘The disturbances of chaos we felt strike the world changed much. One strand must have struck her fully. She should not have survived such power, but somehow she did, to all our sorrow. The surviving has turned her into something… other.’
The grave statement resonated within her.
‘This creature lusts to kill. She will kill again-‘ the High Elf looked surprised, ‘Wait. This cannot be. She is immortal. And look at the tatters here, where once she felt the Great Skein.’ It looked to its companion, who nodded and looked closer.
‘She has been moved utterly outside the realm of nature. Yet she has her form, and such power it holds! How can so much damage be done, in such a way? We must learn more of what has happened. I would never have believed such chaos binding to a mortal form was possible.’
The first nodded and the stricken crowd of Elves looked on, some dumbfounded, others sobbing and moaning, as they bound their beloved sister into a box of light, trying not to harm her, and took her to the nearest great hall. Unable to fight, Ealasaíd spat and hissed at them in fury.
Blocking the windows and binding the hall with energy, they set about trying to understand this horror that had befallen their kin.
‘She is of the night, now,’ they said, turning all away except the mage, who gazed at her in horror and sorrow. ‘Mourn Ealasaíd. Honour her memory. She is no more. If there is any of her left, it is buried so deep in madness it would not stop her from carnage. See to the slain, and her child. Aí, such sorrow this night! If there is a way to redeem her, we shall try to divine it, but I fear she is beyond our aid.’
They spent the rest of the hours of darkness studying her, sifting through what they could of her madness and memories, trying to piece together what had been done to her. She was held immobile by glowing bonds as they studied, and she gradually quietened and stopped struggling. The Elf mage held the wards on the hall while they probed. He had moved apart, unable to look at her.
A wailing was rising in the city such as had never been heard before, all the people in shock and mourning. To be an Elf was to live in harmony with your kind, with the land and sea and creatures. A killer of kin, a drinker of blood, a slayer of the rare Elf children was the worst perversion that they could countenance; double and again that one of their most powerful revered leaders had transformed into such a monster. It made them doubt the safety of their land, their kin and neighbours; the very existence they had always enjoyed.
An undulating chant filled with grief rose and fell, the city and beyond coming together in shock and sorrow as word spread, the lilting beautiful songs of the Elves touched with never-before-heard woe.
Ealasaíd held her ears, crying out. Her enhanced hearing heard it clearly. The sound tortured her, a memory of all she had lost. Gradually she fell into a trance as the High Elves sifted through her, hoping to find and restore who she was, to find what fell working had created such a monster, her thoughts dimming to a red haze. As day came she lay still, retreating deep within herself. The memory of her husband dead at her hands, her madness, the hunger, the pain all froze down to a dense centre captured within. She lay, quiescent, all signs of life gone. The orgy of the bloodlust had diminished, allowing her to use her cunning again.
One thought remained. She had to escape, to get free. To run far from here. To flee from what she had lost.
The High Elves removed her bonds, and she did not react. They gathered outside to speak to the people, and spoke long into the day. They would not allow any in to see her, and dimly she heard them debating her death, as a kindness. They could not undo what the chaos had done to her.
Deep within she snarled at the weakness.
She had given everything to survive.
One brief lucid thought flashed past, unbidden.
To survive to see Fórnur. To see Ealitár.
With the names came the faces frozen in fear, overlain with the faces of prey. The broken body of the man she had loved with all her heart. Her delight as she slaughtered him. The face of her son, her reason for living. The fear. The terror. Her lust.
Weeping and laughing softly, mindlessly, she broke free from her thoughts, her pain second only to the urge to flee. She could hear the silence spreading outside as her dreadful laughter carried through the doors. Madness overwhelmed her again, but this time it was tempered with cunning.
She prowled the hall. The cage of energies around her was gone, but the hall had been anchored with warding energies over every door and window, and the walls were interlaced with them too. She leapt into the rafters with ease, her sharp eyes searching for any exit. Hanging upside down from them, she quartered the roof, finally hissing in triumph.
There was a small window at the apex of the hall roof that had been missed, barely big enough to wriggle out, and with the sun waning it was in shadow from nearby trees.
She burst through it, leaving skin and scraping the overlaying wards on the hall, and fled into the dusk.
Because of her torpor in daylight, the mage had not expected her resistance or the point of exit, and was slow to respond to the sudden brush on the wards he held. His cry of alarm followed her as she dashed into the woods with matchless speed, snarling at the brief terrifying spots of sunlight, heading towards the mountains she had come from.
There was still a sane part of her mind, cold and cunning, and she left a trail even a human could follow, finally leaping lightly into the trees. Still discovering her limits, she moved east, towards the eastern island ports off the coast. She knew in this land she would forever be hunted, and in time would be trapped again. She also knew of other lands without High Elves, without so many powerful beings. Lands with many more prey where she could hunt without fear.
Lands across the dark water.
Her kin followed but could not find her, and although in time they came to the eastern port where she had stowed in the dark hold of a human ship, the ship was long gone.
It never made its port. Ealasaíd had learned cunning, wariness, and some control of her bloodlust. Although her power and loss had driven her mad, there was a cold burningly sane part of her that knew now she could still be harmed, that although she was immortal she was not completely invincible.
One by one she took the sailors, until she killed the last in sight of Anaria and dove overboard, leaving the ship adrift, the hold awash with death. Swimming in the night sea, she finally rose, pale and dripping, on the shore of a new continent.
She travelled many lands over the next few thousand years, a creature of darkness and hatred. Her intelligence and speech came back to her, as did a measure of control.
Sometimes she moved through civilisation, dressing like the cattle she preyed on, taking her lustful fill of prey. She delighted in taking virile young men or women to slake her arousal, and then feasting on them afterward, always careful, always hiding. She preyed on all she could, careful not to be found.
At other times she would shun society, preferring to allow her bestial side to run rampant, and then she would spend years in the wilderness, giving in to the animal carnage, killing travellers and creatures as the urges drove her.
She laughed when she learned that some – very few – of those she attacked had risen to be like her. Most had died, horribly, or been terribly wounded, but sometimes… very rarely, the darkness she bore found a home in them. A copy of the chaos within her, a pattern of her damage imprinted their forms, changing them. They gained an echo of her abilities, powers, appetites, strengths… and her weaknesses.
She had sown children, and in time several of them were found, and then more as they changed from hunters to hunted. Humans and Elves learned how to kill her kind, but her cunning and powerful progeny also learned to hide, and the stories and fear spread.
She was not concerned. She was the oldest, the most powerful, and cared not for her monstrous offspring. The tales of monstrous creatures that killed with a bite in the darkness spread, and that led to a new name.
As the centuries passed, she gradually gained more and more control of her true being without realising it. What she had lost had dulled, a little. Sanity slowly bled back in. She fed less and less on the helpless, the innocent. Ealasaíd – the Oathkeeper, the mother, the wife – emerged bit by bit within the husk of a creature of darkness, and began to unconsciously assert control once more.
One night, as the sun set and she emerged in the wilds away from all humans and Elves, she raised her face to the heavens and simply let the cool breeze play over her flawless face. Quietly, calmly, her thoughts assembled one by one, the true thoughts of Ealasaíd-that-was, and rather than hunt she simply sat at the edge of a lake, looking at the moon reflected in its surface.
For the first time in thousands of years, she became who she once had been.
Eventually, she began to cry, great wracking sobs that tore at her heart. In that moment, the full realisation of her tragedy was known to her, and she wished she could die. She realised that she had regained herself fully, in a process so slow she had not even noticed. Her memories of what had happened came back, fresh as if yesterday, and then crashing in and back were memories of what she had done, to creatures, to her kin, to her husband.
To her son, the light of her existence.
She saw the blood, tasted its metallic memory, and for the first time the feeding was ashes in her mouth. The recalled look of dull terror in the eyes of her child, the look that her lustful chaotic side had revelled in, made her cry out in true broken-hearted anguish.
What damage had she done?
There was no forgiveness. There was no return. Even if she had the courage, even if she could face them, it was lifetimes too late.
They were all dust. Long as the lives of Elves were, all those she had known were now gone, all but the godlike High Elves.
Only she was left. Immortal. Twisted. Chaotic. An Abomination.
Riven to her soul, she began to wash. The filth of years came off her, and her agonised wails of loss drove all creatures from her that night. She sobbed, scoring her flesh with her nails, tearing at her body, but she healed almost immediately. Only the faint old scar on her arm remained since her rebirth into death. The hunger returned, but it was an old friend, an old foe, and she was stronger now. She could ignore the desire for a long time.
Ealasaíd loathed what she had become. No punishment was too much for her. Even death could not rebalance the horrors she had committed. She gave thanks to the Twelve that she had awoken again, finally, to be able to end the terror.
She intended to wait for daylight, for the sun to char the flesh from her bones. To see the searing flame she had once loved one last time as it destroyed the monster she had become, all the more tragic because she had somehow become it only through not wishing to lose her life, her family.
She had lost more than that. She had lost everything.
She wished only for final, true death.
As the hours passed and she sat there, trying to wash the sins of millennia from her perfect cool flesh, holding on to this new sanity, another thought came to her which gave her pause.
How many countless had she slaughtered, only to have them join her? How many cursed by her had risen up to slay in the night?
How much damage had she done to this world she had once loved with all her being?
A new purpose bloomed in her cold heart; a way to absolve herself as much as she could.
A way to reclaim Ealasaíd.
When the sun rose, it did not find her there.
Night after night, she retraced her steps. She learned to trap and hunt creatures and take only what she needed, finally managing to leave more alive than dead. She grew more and more adept, and learned a fierce joy in keeping her primal urges at bay. She vowed never to kill to feed, never to lose herself to those desires again
In Matalaga she finally found one of her chaotic children. A fat man once, he was now a bloated monster who preyed on children who played near his cave dwelling if they dared enter. Hunting the streets and beds of towns nearby, he took sheep if he could get no humans. He was lazy, the urge having to drive him. He would bathe in the blood of children and touch himself, gazing longingly into their skulls. In life he had been accused of violating many children for his pleasure but had been rich enough to avoid penalties. In death, he was a monster to rival her, and more. He fed the darkness in his soul willingly, and was not completely insane. He knew what he did.
Ealasaíd followed him to his lair, saw his fouls acts. Disgusted, reviling him, she knew in her heart that even she had not been so vile. She swore that she would undo what she had all unwittingly done. She would redirect this chaos seeded within her and redress the balance.
She showed herself to him there, and he attacked her, believing her to be easy prey. Only at the last moment did he realise who she was, what she was.
He hissed and cowered, baring his fangs, loving her, hating her, fearing her. She realised she could command him, such was her power as his progenitor. She was far older and stronger than he, and her strength had only grown over the centuries.
She was tempted to compel him to kill himself, but she had to be sure. He tried to fight in those last moments, but she destroyed him utterly, tearing his heart from his chest and consuming it, leaving his body outside to char and dust under the cleansing sunlight.
Many more she found and killed, with each death feeling a release. She devoted herself to this holy work, for the first time in millennia feeling a kind of peace in the roiling bestial turmoil within.
One night, centuries later, she cornered an old vampire in Anaria. The creature was in the shape of a young girl, unusual since the turning was often too much for such tender mortality. She was saddened; she did not remember Turning this one.
Poised to strike, to cleanse the world of another evil, Ealasaíd caught the gaze of the girl.
It was burning, powerful, the gaze of a vampire, but it was also clear of madness. Although older in form than her lost son, something in this dark creature before Ealasaíd reminded her of him.
The girl was weeping, tears rolling down her cold cheeks. She was gaunt, as if she had not fed for some time, and she shook in fear. She knew what Ealasaíd was; some of them knew now. Some even remembered her.
They knew they could not fight her strength.
The girl wept, but not for the fear of true death; she wept for what she had become, what she had lost. She looked into Ealasaíd’s eyes, a once-human girl of frightening power, then bowed her head, accepting her end.
Ealasaíd stayed her hand, shocked.
This was no monster!
She recognised the signs of not having drunk for some time, the shaking and gauntness, and a new realisation came crashing in upon her.
In all the centuries she had hunted vampires, not once had she considered that they might redeem themselves as she was trying to do.
The thought rocked her to her foundation.
She had lain to rest many that she knew would never have given up their newfound power; something dark within willingly fed the madness, enhanced the evil in their souls in life and making them truly monstrous.
But some… some had been good in life, and perhaps when the madness passed, when they learned to control their hunger… perhaps they would have been like her.
This was her second greatest sin, she realised, tears spilling from her eyes in empathy. Having loosed her frenzied children upon a defenceless world, she was seeking to undo what could not be undone. She was ending many who were simply in pain. Out of their minds. Perhaps some who had regained their sanity relatively quickly, or could be helped to do so.
Looking back, she realised that the reason she had lost all sanity and become a monster for so long was because she had given so much to survive the chaos that had torn through her. She had been the first of her kind, something never known before. Violent death and loss of sanity was terrible, but could not compare to the soul-destroying chaos that had torn her essence apart, the resounding warping by her own magic, her own death and loss of sanity, the loss of her family.
Being so alone.
Dropping her hand, she instead drew the vampire girl to her, and for the first time in five thousand years felt the press of flesh against hers in need of comfort. She shuddered a breath she did not need to draw, but which was compelled from her core, and began to sob.
The pain of being with another again in companionship scored every bit as badly as the silver knife had, and she wept anew for the innocent victims she had cursed.
Rising, they left that place, becoming companions. In time, they found another, and another. Guided by her, they travelled deep into the south-western mountains of Anaria, and there they became a new family with a new purpose.
They would hunt the Turned, and they would give them a choice.
Those Ealasaíd could save – those who had been good in life – would be taken, trained, rehabilitated, given every chance to become what they had once been. More than once she managed to take a newly risen vampire before they could kill, and they were the quickest to wean from the path of chaos and murder.
But those that revelled in the evil inside, that did not simply give in to overwhelming urges but drove them, finding a perfect love for the chaos already within their hearts… those that wanted this new power, that lost nothing but were instead completed by it… those she could not save she hunted mercilessly, and killed without conscience.
An order was established, and the name Vampyre was used with pride, both the same and different to the creatures of the night that men and Elves feared. They were those that had conquered themselves; those worthy of their powers, and who used them to protect the innocent, to redress what balance they could. They did not kill wantonly or Turn others, and in time they found new lives and love with one another, a close knit community. They found their natures still dark and primal, but they controlled them, building their own cultural mix of their Elven and human racial pasts and their new beginnings based in the darkness they had risen from.
Names of power better fitting their natures became commonplace, and she named them Lords and Ladies as a mark of having attained control, of mastering themselves.
Enough joined her family that eventually even couples bonded in love, although never Ealasaíd, who accepted no title and kept her name.
She would remain alone for all of eternity; her punishment.
Ealasaíd was their Mother, their Sister, their Queen, and she loved them all for what they had endured and risen above.
Finally in an ultimate and unlooked for blessing, children were born, the Unturned. Something in the bodies of the females remembered that they could once bear life, and they rejoiced, for the first time bringing life instead of taking it.
These new children mastered themselves faster than their parents could, their growth slowing and stopping late in their second decade but their look ageless. For the first time, innocent Vampyres came into being, powerful but without stain on their souls.
Still, as a people they remained somewhat hollow. They had purpose, and each other, but in those that had once been Turned there was a constant loss, the call of the blood. They took their fill peacefully, but merely drinking blood was unfulfilling. By removing the primal and violent means of taking, by denying their chaotic and brutal nature, they were left less.
Eventually, after almost a thousand years of searching for new meaning, one named Za’ Amon proposed that they replace the need for blood with the need for knowledge and study. They were immortal and could hoard knowledge indefinitely, and although blood was powerful, knowledge was the greatest form of power there was for a being.
In fact power was the very foundation of their being, to be revelled in, and if they could perhaps only redirect its source… effectively swap one for the other… perhaps they would have the ultimate meaning they so desperately sought, one that would not fade or pale.
The more Ealasaíd thought on this, the more it spoke to her, and so she founded the Order of Illuminus. Standing in the darkness as they were cursed to, they sought the light they yearned for but were forever denied, finding it instead in the light of knowledge.
And finally, mournful – but with purpose, and family to replace the one she lost – Ealasaíd dwelled under the stars once more.
Copyright Christopher Bramley
A bit of fun that caught my eye on https://www.facebook.com/writerscircle
“…the Immutable. She must have impacted the bottom shockingly hard to have thrown silt and sand so high into the water from so deep.
So arrogant. So doomed. Nearly twice as long as the Titanic, and more than two hundred feet longer than the Oasis class cruisers – the largest ever built until she launched, proud and swift, the first passenger ship to gross more metric tons than an American aircraft carrier. The Mariana Class. The latest quintuple-hull twin strut design, the latest exotic materials for strength and lightness beyond anything before; the latest in communications and satellite positioning technology. The world’s first hybrid thorium nuclear/fuel cell staged and supplemental solar-powered vessel for passengers, using the new ducted contra-rotating MHD oscillating impeller technology that allowed the best economy ever recorded for a ship her class – and many below. Her propulsion made an ululating howling noise heard for many miles, which put one in mind of a great singing whale under the water, but only in a certain frequency. Above the water, it required special equipment to detect. In all other ways, she was nearly as silent as some of the old submarines, and the engineers were smug, saying that this ship should not interfere with the songs of the oceanic creatures that shipping noises had disrupted for the last century and more, being outside the upper limit of usual frequencies.
Unique. Silent. Fast. Strong. And gone. All gone. 7000 souls, barely thirty percent escaping, lost in 110m of water, sinking so fast that lifeboats were sucked down after her, trailing their great mother in fatal kinship. The designers thought they were avoiding fate by not naming her “invincible”; it had been done before, and proved wrong, but their hubris was no less. It may not have been her maiden voyage, like her doomed ancestor, but the mystery was all the greater – no icebergs were likely this far south, mid-Atlantic and bound further south.
Unheard of, you would think, in this day and age; that something so well staffed, so well tracked, could just disappear. But then my mind wanders back to the Malaysia airlines flight a decade ago… the Bermuda Triangle myth may have been disproved, but the earth was still plenty large enough to lose even such a ship as the Immutable. She had sadly proved the name false, and with some concern; nuclear vessels required careful processes to salvage.
Sent to investigate, her lower extremities are out of bounds to all but qualified technical divers with specialist gear. There are thirty of us, and for this we had decided to buddy up and take levels separated by ten metres down to the safest limit, there to be continued by submersible; there were too many unknowns to solo. How such a fast, powerful, and redundantly safe ship had sunk, with nothing more than brief cries, screams, and shouts of impact where there was no land was an utter mystery. The eyes of many nations are on this dive.
The shape is dim ahead, resolving slowly. I know the head-mounted camera will not see through the blue light-shifted waters as well as my eyes as we approach, and I signal my partner to ensure he has seen it. He flashes a hand with rounded index and thumb in the ok, and I turn back to look at the dim shape ahead.
And it moves.
Slowly at first, and then more quickly, the form changes; ponderous, yet lithe. Gargantuan. A questing noise, curious, questioning – ululating at the very upper limits of hearing – creeps into my brain, seeming to come from all around us in the water, and I hear my companion yell into his regulator in fright, or excitement. I glance up, breathing fast in shock, feeling my heart hammer at my chest. It is a long way, and a long time, up. I look back to see it unwrap itself from the ship it dwarfs, and I vaguely wonder if it had thought it a mate, or a threat.
Whichever it had been, it is awake, and wary. With all of us close together, I guess it can see our bubbles rising, hear the ships above, sense our approach… foreign matter in its realm. It is King, and Emperor. Enormous. All-encompassing.