June 24, 2019
The palace would have been immaculate, if not for the bodies.
Gleaming marble floors, polished banisters, light spilling in from the few stained glass windows unobscured by thick curtains. It was beautiful.
But those damn statues of death everywhere…
I had been on excursions like this before. All of us had, as part of our training— a full tour of the sites of the old war.
But this place… This place was different.
Nowhere else could you still see the soldiers, frozen mid-battle. Nowhere else could you see the last of the rival royal families as they fought or fled, locked in the last move they ever made, the last breath they ever took.
The last of the vampires, cursed to a second death that wasn’t death.
It had been eons since the spell was cast, with a strength of magic never seen before or since. And to this day, no one has been able answer the questions of why, from where, by whom… and most importantly, for how long. Fear and superstition abound across the kingdom, many still believing the vampires would one day awaken.
The point of the visit was to dispel those myths, and see for ourselves what truly became of the titans of old. Walking amongst them, however, it was hard to hold on to the objectivity required of a historian. The stories I had been told growing up replayed unbidden in my mind, and while I usually shied away from superstition and fancy, I could not shake the unease that had wrapped itself around my heart from the moment we entered.
The vampires may have been cursed to stillness, but the stillness did not feel like the lifelessness of death… It felt like the crouch of a tiger, waiting to strike.
…Clearly, I was the only one who felt this way.
“Quiet, Garrick. We still don’t know whether they can hear us.”
“I don’t care. It’s not like they can do anything about what we say. And they were idiots, fighting amongst one another like uncivilized rats rather than the superior race they claimed to be.”
With each word Garrick flung so carelessly, my panic rose.
“Garrick,” I hissed, eyes darting to the statues closest to us. Of course, they had to be the former princes, the Wairf’s wings gleaming, the Pyr’s sword still raised to cut them off. “Not. here.”
Always one to enjoy making things uncomfortable, Garrick laughed. “Fine, out in the courtyard then. I have something to show you all anyway.”
I followed, more relieved to be out of earshot of the vampires to be concerned about whatever Garrick had planned.
Until I heard the screech.
I’d read the records. I had pored over the descriptions of our former kin, and the noises they’d make to strike fear in their enemies during battle.
But I never, ever thought I would live to hear a Wairf’s scream.
I whirled to face Garrick, who was far-too-smugly leaning against the garden wall. “What have you done?”
His smirk made me wish I was close enough to plunge my sword into him.
“I made a better vampire.”
My heart was plunging to the depths of hell as he continued to speak.
“I borrowed some DNA, and I cast a little spell. They were stupid. Wairfs… Pyrs… Even the names. It didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. They fought for nothing, just so one could claim superiority when neither deserved it. Combined, however… Combined they create a new breed. Stronger than both. Smarter than both. And released right here, for them to see where their petty war got them.”
As if timed, the hybrid’s shadow cast over us as he flew screeching through the open palace doors.
The elders are going to be so mad when they wake up.
And suddenly I knew. They were going to wake. They were going to wake because of what Garrick had done, and our people would pay.
I ran. The king would be the first. The others were already beginning to stir, droplets of their entrapment dripping to nothingness. But I had to find King Alareiks.
Behind me, the demon screeched again, looping overhead. Garrick’s magic was nowhere near as advanced as his ego, yet even I could see that his creation was truly a hybrid. The strong wings and tail of a Wairf, the lean musculature of the Pyr, the standard wolf’s head of the advanced Pyr warrior who transforms in battle.
It would have been impressive, if it wasn’t so damn stupid.
He found King Alareiks before I did, landing on the balcony overlooking the ballroom just as I skidded in, his eyes shifting between me and the nearly-awakened King of Wairfs. I kept him in my field of vision as I approached, eyes cast down as was the old custom.