Thursday, 30 June 2011

Lost With Vampires Somewhere Deep in a Cave in Romania

Corporal Michael Morrison groaned as he painfully pulled himself up on his elbow to have a look at how much damage he the stalagmite had done to his leg. It had penetrated his right thigh and was pinning his whole leg to the rocky earth of the cave floor.  There was very little blood and, as yet, very little pain from the wound, but Mike knew that pulling out the stalagmite would set the blood gushing and he would probably die within minutes from blood loss.  He was also grimly aware that he was in shock, and that any wrong movement could be potentially fatal.

His little band of vampires had by now clustered around him and were looking down at him with shock and pity on their gray, wasted faces.  Even in his current dire situation, he had to smile to himself.  Who would have thought that a hardened mercenary like himself would have taken a ragged little band of vampires under his wing, protecting them and even becoming fond of them? When he had first come upon them he was shocked because he had been led to believe that the Romanian vampires were bloodthirsty monsters who were out of control and on the rampage.

But his little crew were all gentle souls, who were pathetically grateful that Mike had helped them and they, in turn, gave him all the help they could to lead him out of the twisting tunnels and caverns.  He was also doing things that he would never have dreamed he could do to keep his vampires alive.  He let them feed on him; just enough to keep them going and not enough to turn him.  They in turn helped him find what meagre food and water there was down in the caves. They found him weird and wonderful fungi, insects and showed him how to find the pools where the blind fish swam. Though he wasn’t entirely sure that he needed to know that there were centipedes that big in these caves!  Even though it was tasty enough when roasted on a stick over a small fire made from the moss that grew on the cave walls!

But it was the story that the vampires told him that had shocked him the most.  He had been told of the wars between the vampires, and been led to believe that the Romanian vampires had brought most of the flak that they were getting on themselves by attacking the local human population and ravaging cattle populations.  But Mike had already started to be puzzled by the absence of these monster vampires in the darkness of these caves and he couldn’t see how anyone would be threatened by his little band of waif-like gray creatures comprising of the male vampires Stigson, Gunderd, and Alaris, the two females Anareid and Dilsun and the little girl Mobie. It was Stigson, the leader of their little group who had told him the bulk of their story.
Mike had listened with horror as Stigson told him that although they couldn’t remember much of their previous lives, they had learned that they had been hunted down and kidnapped from the world of men.  They had heard whispers of some head honcho vampire called Lord Kingsteignton, who had developed an injection process that could drain humans of blood and turn them into vampires, but also contained some drug that did not give them all of the strengths and gifts of normal vampires.  Theses artificially turned vampires did not have the blood lust, the preternatural strength and did not have the ability to dematerialise, shape-shift or fly. They also had their memories blanked, so had little knowledge of their identities and who they had previously been.  The vampire wars in Romania it turned out were no more than elaborate spin fed to the media and Old Kingdom groups by Kingsteignton’s minions, in order to cover up his illegal mining and vampire labour camps.

After the turning had been completed, they were brought to the caves of the Carpathian Mountains so they could work as slaves in Kingsteignton’s mines.  They were made to work long hours in the dark; heavy physical labour that pulled their muscles and made their joints ache.  They were offered no recreation or social life, and slept on pallets on the floor when they became too exhausted to carry on working.  As it was so dark in the depths of the caves, the natural cycle of the vampire was disrupted, and they were flogged into working even when the sun was high in the outside world.  Most disgustingly, they were fed on the blood of pigs that were kept in crowded, squalid pens in the labour camps. The pigs were so undernourished and weakened by the lack of sunshine and fresh air, that their blood offered very few nutrients to the starving vampires.
These worker vampires lived in a state of weary resignation. They had never heard of anyone escaping the mines and had no memories of a time before, so could not conjure up in their minds any idea of a future life that they could lead.  But strange things had started to happen in the camps. A loud laugh had been heard echoing though the caves that seemed to spook the labour camp guards, even though they were hardened vampire mercenaries hired by Kingsteignton. Although they had no memory, this laugh unnerved something deep in the cellular memory of the worker vampires and when the sound of grating stones started, they had become thoroughly unnerved and unsettled.

But Stigson had started to scent an opportunity in the sense of panic that was beginning to settle around the camp. He ordered his work group to start hoarding some of their precious ration of bladders of pigs’ blood, and one day, when the supernatural laughter had been particularly maniacal, they had slipped away down one of the side passages, heading for the surface. The pursuit by the camp’s bloodhounds that they had been dreading had failed to materialise, such was the panic in the camp. So the ragged little band had climbed ever upwards, with their blood supplies getting lower and lower until they had their fateful encounter with Mike.
But now lying pinned to the cave floor by the stalagmite, blood oozing out of the wound, Mike started to shiver and the anxious eyes staring down into his began to blur and waver......

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Will The Real Lord Kingsteignton Please Step Forward?

The little vampire put his head coyly to one side and looked up at Roland through strangely thick, dark lashes.

‘Well, as you know De Cazalrenoux, it’s a brutal world if you are one of the movers and shakers of the Old Kingdom. Vampires are vain creatures, and will usually only sire offspring on fit, good looking humans, but my sire was a perverse creature. He came across a strange looking human child, and thought it would be funny to create a vampire from this unpromising clay. Of course, what he didn’t know was that although the child had physical peculiarities, it was also uniquely intelligent and a cruel, merciless sociopath. The change into a vampire only boosted both the intelligence and the cruelty. As I came into my own as a vampire leader, I decided that I needed to match my mental acuity and leadership skills, with a handsome, attractive outer shell. I commissioned some of the finest artisans of their time to build the outer body that you can see sitting at the table, creating the features and physique that I wanted. Unlike, the Antonescu substitute, my outer persona is far more intricately linked with me. I actually spend most of my time lying in my coffin as I can fully inhabit my shell, see through his eyes, feel the sensations of his body and even taste the blood! The shell also has the advantage of being able to operate in the daylight hours if I want it to, although I have to be careful about not encountering anyone I know, don’t want the whole world to know my secret!’

‘But how?’ asked Vlad, looking confused and revolted at the same time.

‘You really don’t think that I am going to tell you that’ tittered Kingsteignton ‘And if you are thinking that I am vulnerable when I am in my coffin, and that you can attack me there, trust me you will never find it, and if you ever did you would never get to me!’

Roland raised an aristocratic eyebrow.

‘A bit paranoid Kingsteignton, why would we want to attack you? Don’t judge us all by your standards. All I want is to know what you have done with my pack member Kea, and Vladimirescu here, for some reason, just wants the smelly human back. You can keep the Antonescu thing with both our blessings’
‘As I said, still obsessed by irrelevancies De Cazalrenoux, what does one little werewolf matter, when the entire fate of the Old Kingdom hangs in the balance!’

‘Why are you always so dramatic Kingsteignton? The only threat to the Old Kingdom that I can currently see is you; you have a very strange enthusiasm for destroying your own kind and you could easily pull some strings to take the heat off your Romanian cousins. Quite frankly, the welfare of my pack comes first with me, and if one of my clan is lost, I will find them!’

‘I agree that the internal politics of us vampires is none of your concern, De Cazalrenoux, but I assure you that something bigger than all of our petty concerns is stirring, and it threatens not only the Old Kingdom, but the human world which you seem to cherish so much for some unaccountable reason!’

‘Proof, Kingsteignton, proof!’ jeered Roland ‘You’re beginning to sound like a broken record. Strangely enough I don’t trust you, and I already feel that I have been manipulated enough!’

Kingsteignton sighed heavily.

‘Do you remember that time back at the Club when my shell lost the plot, and started behaving in a manner totally unbecoming to the persona that I wish to project to the world? Well for the first time ever I had lost control. Much as it humiliates me to say so, I could no longer see through my eyes on the world and did not have a clue what was going on. Something or someone had interfered and had cut the connection. I used the inbuilt tracking device to follow the shell back to Vladimirescu’s house and retrieved it. Sorry about the gas and the manhandling Vladimirescu, but I knew that you would not have been reasonable about giving the shell back’.

Vlad snorted at this jibe.

‘But when I got the shell back and viewed the memory cells, I unfortunately became aware of exactly who had taken over the shell and my worst suspicions were confirmed. What little blood I have ran even colder and even the basic cells of the shell were terrified, for chrissakes! There have been rumours from the Romanian caves for some time, and the signs have been growing, he is rising, Gentlemen, he is rising and we must stop him, or it will be the end of us all!’

And a hollow laugh echoed through the deepest caves of the Carpathian Mountains. Stalagmites thousands of years old shuddered and cracked, one of which speared Corporal Michael Morrison through the leg, pinning him to the floor of the cave and halting his vampire companions in their tracks in horror.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Roland's Little Nightmare

‘You know gentlemen, it is considered as polite to reply when someone greets you’ lisped the strange little vampire in his thin, reedy voice ‘and also you two gentlemen are usually never short of something to say; especially you Vladimirescu, you have a tendency to witter on interminably!’

Even this barb didn’t seem to penetrate Vlad’s dull incomprehension at what he was seeing and hearing, and he continued to stare at the strange creature incredulously. Roland was somewhat quicker to recover, and grabbed Kingsteignton’s proffered hand, but instead of shaking it, he held it up to examine it. The little vampire seemed to be amused rather than offended or scared, and watched Roland with interest as he turned the hand over and examined it all over and finished by carefully sniffing it. Kingsteignton knew that werewolves relied on their sense of smell far more than their other senses, and that Roland would have absorbed a world of information about him through those few, exploratory sniffs.

Roland though found himself to be faintly repulsed by his thorough examination of the vampire’s hand. The hand was no bigger than a child’s, with soft, smooth, abnormally white skin and long lacquered nails. There was a crude gold ring on the third finger, set with a large, dull, unpolished diamond and the scent hadn’t been right. It was definitely vampire, but instead of the usual sour vampire odour, there was a hint of something almost sweet, like talcum powder, that overlaid it.

He carefully released Kingsteignton’s hand and looked him straight in the eye.
‘I am really tired, really hungry, and wearing incredibly bad, uncomfortable clothes, which tends to make me want to rip throats out. I am also fed up with being lied to and have been led up so many different garden paths in the last day or so that I might as well have gone on a day trip to Kew Gardens. You have three seconds to start with some straight talking before I get physical’ growled Roland.

The strange vampire merely tittered.

‘Sorry to strain your brain so early in the morning, De Cazalrenoux, but there really is no need for any threat of violence. As you will see, everything is really quite simple and, as they say, all will soon be revealed’.

‘Quite simple?’ queried Roland rolling his eyes and casting his eyes over the three inert figures who were still trapped in their robotic poses ‘Why don’t you start by explaining what is going on with those three’.

‘Typical, start with the irrelevancies’ replied Kingsteignton wearily ‘But if you must. The annoying, smelly human is merely hypnotised and in a deep trance. He thinks that he is so clever, because he can resist the glamour of a vampire, but went under with a blink of an eye. Do want me to bring him out?’

‘No if it is going to start yabbering on again, no. Leave him how he is for now, he will only immediately recommence clogging up his arteries with those fries as soon as he is back with us’ retorted Roland.

Vlad seemed to spring back to life at Roland’s cavalier dismissal of the suggestion that Mike Costello be restored to his full awareness.

‘Roland, we came here to save Mike! We can’t abandon him now!’

‘We’re not abandoning him, we are merely ensuring that we don’t have to listen to him for a little while longer’ soothed Roland ‘Now what about the other two?’

Kingsteignton simpered a little at this question.

‘Well, that’s where some of the clever stuff starts coming in. The vampire that you have been calling Antonescu is what you might call a substitute. We took a vampire that fitted Antonescu’s vague description, wiped his memory and replaced it with some fairly basic memories and information that the real Count would know, did a bit of basic programming and sent him in. Of course, you Vladimirescu were far too disorganised as usual to check him out. A bit of basic fact finding would have told you that the real Count Antonescu is still in some Romanian cave fighting for his existence’.

‘But why?’ retorted Vlad, horrified.

‘Oh, only to gather more information. We have had your place wired for ages, but this is a far more direct method, as I could get Antonescu to ask specific questions or behave in certain ways to influence what was going on’.

Roland’s head was beginning to spin. How weird could vampires get? Would he ever work out what made them tick?

‘I really think that I am going to regret asking, but what about the third one? The one we have been calling Lord Kingsteignton for several centuries?’

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Just a Bunch of Dummies

Roland felt strangely detached as he watched Vladimirescu gulping and trying to regain his composure. The past twenty four hours had just been too strange – he felt that he had experienced every emotion that a werewolf was capable of and that he was trapped in some horrible joke that he couldn’t find his way out of.

Costello, Antonescu and Kingsteignton just remained where they were, not moving and with a completely blank look in their eyes. It was like someone had pulled a plug and they had just shut down like robots or computers. The big question in Roland’s mind was whether they had been hypnotised or had had a spell cast on them and were subsequently being controlled by someone else? Or was it that they had never been real people at all, but were just plants sent into their lives to gain information or influence events in a certain way? In either case, who was doing the controlling and why?

‘So what do you think, Vladimirescu?’ Roland asked abruptly, startling the shocked vampire out of his reverie.

Vlad turned to face Roland, and tried to pull himself together.

‘I don’t know what to think’ he whispered ‘I just don’t know what is real anymore. Are you even really De Cazalrenoux, are you really a werewolf?’

Roland growled low in his throat, allowing his canines to drop down in his gums and the red tufts of fur to sprout once more from his ears. It was getting ridiculous; he had half-turned so many times in the last few hours that at this rate he would get permanently stuck there, and then what would happen to his high-flying career and equally high-flying love life? Hairy ginger ears were not a common sight in a Mayfair nightclub!

‘If I ripped your throat out, would that be proof enough that I was a werewolf?’ he snarled.

Vlad merely looked irritated by this testosterone-fuelled display of werewolfhood.

‘For god’s sake De Cazalrenoux, can’t you put your inflated ego away for one minute, so that we can actually get on with working out what the hell is going on here!’

Roland was taken aback by this flash of assertion from Vlad, and resumed his fully human form although he still looked stormy.

‘Well, I think that one of the first things that we must do is search this house from top to bottom and see if there is anyone else here that we can get some information from. Even if we have to throttle the truth out of them!’ stated Vlad in a cold, flat tone.

Roland lifted an aristocratic eyebrow at this statement, slightly startled at the sudden appearance of this new, assertive Vlad.

‘Well I can tell you that from the scent signatures on this floor that there has only been vampires here and that one, not particularly hygienic, human. I know when Antonescu entered your life, but how long have you known Mike Costello?’ queried Roland.

Vlad frowned as he cast his mind back.

‘I met Mike about two years ago. He came and knocked on my front door, bold as brass, and demanded to be let in. He told me about the paranormal blog he wrote, and that he had been given a tip off that the house was a vampire lair. Come to think about, he never did say where the tip off came from, but I am convinced he is a real human. He acted like a human, smelled like a human and had a human vibration. I’ve never seen anything like this morning’s display before from Mike; he was always so boisterous and full of life and real, if you know what I mean?’

‘Only too well’ replied Roland wrinkling his nose in distaste as he turned in Costello’s direction.

‘And how well do you know Kingsteignton?’ countered Vlad.

‘Well the pack has had dealings with Kingsteignton for several centuries, and usually not very pleasant ones! But he is quite an elusive character, and I have never had too many personal encounters with him. He is basically a coward who prefers to get other people to do his dirty work for him!’

‘It’s like trying to grab hold of jelly from a bowl’ declared Vlad randomly and both the Old Kingdomers momentarily became lost in their own thoughts.

The creaking of the room door opening snapped them both back to their full awareness and their jaws dropped to the floor at the sight the creature that minced into the room.

‘Definitely a vampire’ thought Roland sniffing the creature’s scent ‘but the strangest vampire that I have ever come across’.

The creature came to a halt in front of Vlad and Roland, who didn’t try to hide their astonishment as they just stared. This bizarre vampire was only about 4ft 11in tall, with a diminutive, wiry frame. His hands and feet seemed to be disproportionally large for his body, and he had a very pale round face, like the moon, with bulbous blue eyes and sparse, improbably yellow curls covered the back of his head. He was dressed in a bright orange quilted satin smoking jacket, with a pale blue velvet cravat pinned with a huge diamond at his throat, and tight, black satin trousers.
‘Good morning, gentlemen’ said the strange vampire in a thin, reedy voice ‘Lord Kingsteignton at your service’.

He held out his hand politely to Vlad, but Vlad just continued staring at him as though he had been turned to stone.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Vampire Trance Games

Roland retreated back towards the fireplace and watched the scene in front of him unfold.

Costello was still waving his chicken leg in the air cheerily, but Vlad's face had crumpled like a kicked little puppy and Kingsteignton had assumed a faintly supercilious smirk. Interestingly the usually loquacious Count was still silent and had got rather a blank look on his face.

'Maybe the Count is just a robot or zombie controlled by Kingsteignton after all' thought Roland to himself with a little inward laugh.

'M...Mm...Mike!' wailed Vladimirescu 'I was so worried about you! How can you be looking so cheerful! How can you eat!'

Mike Costello carried on chewing and swigged some more coke.

'It's cool Vlad, just pull up a chair and grab some fries' replied Mike happily.

Roland's eyes narrowed. Either he was getting paranoid or he was seeing the same blank look in Costello's eyes as he was seeing in the Count's.

Vlad was now just standing and staring at Mike in disbelief; it was as if the whole little tableau had just been instantly frozen in time.

Roland strolled over to the table and snapped his fingers under Costello's nose. Mike did not so much as blink. Vlad jumped at the noise but the Count still remained where he was staring at the table in a vacant, fixed manner.

'So what have you done to him Kingsteignton?' drawled Roland 'Very clever, big bad vampire hypnotises the human? Or have you drugged him?'

'What makes you think I have done anything to the human?' queried Kingsteignton softly 'I found him wandering around outside the house last night and gave him a bed for the night and his favourite breakfast'.

'Well, I knew that vampires were liars, but that one takes the biscuit' ground out Roland 'You know that I know that you took Costello from The Bricklayer's arms and so do the Laurel and Hardy of the vampire world over there?'

'Prove it!' retorted Kingsteignton childishly.

'Why' replied Roland, by now thoroughly confused and thinking he had fallen down the rabbit hole and into some Vampire Wonderland.

'Because I say so' shrieked Kingsteignton even more childishly.

'He's going off again' interjected Vlad 'He can't hold it together. He's going to start writhing and dribbling again in a minute!'

'Look Kingsteignton, I know you took Costello from the pub; I could smell him there and you left this behind'.

Roland took the elegant calling card out of his jean's pocket and held it out in Kingsteignton's direction.

Kingsteignton's eyes had lost all awareness and he gazed at the card dully.

'Prove it' he repeated again in a monotone voice.

Roland raised his eyes to the heavens and groaned. Inwardly he felt like howling. What had he ever done to deserve getting mixed up with the affairs of a bunch of vampires! Feeling the need to blame anyone rather than himself, he cursed Eunice Batchworth under his breath.

Checking Vlad's eyes carefully, and seeing a spark of what passed for normality in a vampire, he backed away from the table.

'It seems Vladimirescu that we are stuck in a vampire's house with one human and two vampires who are in some kind of trance. What do you suggest we do now? It wasn't very pleasant to watch the last time Kingsteignton fell apart, and it didn't smell to good either!'

Vlad gulped in dismay; he wished that someone had told him earlier that this leadership stuff wasn't all it was cracked up to be.