I am going to be releasing my novel, Dawn of Endless Night, here on my blog. I will release a chapter each week. If you enjoy the story, and/or you’d like to give your support and encouragement, please let me know in the comments.
Dawn of Endless Night
Chapter 1: Banquet
Erebus drained the contents of the crystal goblet in one gulp. Blood cooled so quickly, and each degree lost flattened its bouquet significantly. He held the goblet up and waited impatiently while the young serving boy took it and refilled it. The goblet was back in his hand within moments, and this time Erebus didn’t even pause to enjoy the blood’s aroma before tossing it back. Better, but still not as good as straight from the artery.
Erebus sighed quietly to himself, careful not to let his annoyance show on his face. Although he did appreciate the aesthetics of the scene laid out before him, function should always come before form. He and the other members of The Order were not like the fangless puppet-masters of the Alliance. Those fools were too caught up in traditions and appearances to understand the opportunities passing them by. The Order was different. They were innovative, forward-thinking. They realized the potential for power afforded them by the new modern age. Still, the scene was impressive and definitely not something he’d ever see in an Alliance city.
He sat with his comrades at a long stone banquet table. Numerous oil-burning lamps lit the room, giving a cozy light reminiscent of earlier centuries. People hung suspended over the banquet table. There were six in all. They hung from steel cables that stretched to the ceiling enshrouded in shadows a couple dozen feet above. Steel hooks pierced the unfortunate humans’ bodies, supporting them in various poses as they slowly rotated, back and forth, above the table. One man hung by hooks through his Achilles’ tendons, while another was supported by a hook through the fronts of his two topmost ribs.
A young woman was suspended above where Erebus sat. She was supported by steel hooks under the ribs of her back. She had lightly tanned skin and beautiful blond hair. The servers had left her undergarments on, which Erebus approved of. A scantily clad person was often sexier than one who was completely nude. He wondered vaguely if she’d left her house that day wearing the provocative thong and push-up bra, or if they’d been provided for her by his host. Regardless, he approved completely. The pure white of the minimal covering contrasted wonderfully with her flushed skin. Like the others, she’d been commanded not to speak or scream, but she whimpered softly as she hung above him. She was physically incapable of disobeying her instructions because they’d been given by vampires skilled in mind control. Not all vampires could enslave humans to their will, but many of the older, more powerful ones could. Erebus considered his peers in The Order to be some of the most skillful manipulators and dominators he’d ever met.
Many of the vampires sampled the different flavors, but Erebus had sat in front of the human he wanted to drink. Unlike some others in The Order, Erebus always knew what he wanted. An IV had been placed in the femoral artery in each of her inner thighs. The thin plastic tubes led to two sterling silver dispensers—one near Erebus and one on the opposite side of the table. The servers moved about the table, refilling goblets from the various dispensers.
Aside from the goblets, the banquet table was devoid of tableware, although each place did have a silk napkin. Vampires could eat, but few enjoyed it, and there was no need for such deceptions here among their own kind.
Erebus waited for the meeting to begin. He’d already studied the other vampires in the room. He knew them all too well—their schemes and their fears. He was glad he was leaving soon. Nothing quickened his blood like a new challenge. Well, almost nothing.
Erebus admired the woman’s toned body to pass the time. She really was in very good shape. She looked strong, full of life. In a word, delicious. Erebus wanted her. It was too bad she wouldn’t survive the dinner, too bad he had to enjoy her blood from a glass. He imagined the taste of those strong thighs, imagined her hot blood flooding his mouth as his teeth broke her skin.
The sounds of rustling cloth brought Erebus’ attention back to his surroundings. Their host had arrived. Erebus stood with the others.
Power radiated from Accursius like a static charge as the elder vampire strode into the room. The man was tall and broad shouldered. His oiled black hair was pulled back into a short pony tail, and his well-trimmed beard came to a point just below his chin. He wore an expensive Italian suit. He strode toward his place at the head of the table, nodding to each vampire he passed. One by one, the other vampires dipped their heads slightly in respect when he met their eyes.
When Accursius reached Erebus’ seat near the head of the table, he stopped. Erebus stepped away from the table to clasp the other man’s forearm.
“Good evening, my friend,” Accursius said, speaking with a silky accent that hadn’t been heard elsewhere in the world for centuries. “I trust all is well?”
“Excellent, my lord,” Erebus replied, bowing his head slightly.
“Good. And are you ready for your trip?”
Erebus smiled, not hiding the pleasure he felt.
“I’m ready. All the arrangements have been made. I’ll leave immediately after dinner.”
“Outstanding!” Accursius said. “Finally we will have a foothold in Chicago. I’m confident you’ll have the information we need in short order.”
“I will, sir,” Erebus said. The cost of failure did not bear thinking upon. Erebus would allow the sun to burn him away before he’d face that.
Accursius smiled with a conspiratorial air and clapped Erebus on the back.
“Once we’ve secured our position in Chicago, I’ll need someone to run the city. I can’t think of anyone better for the job than you.”
“Thank you, sir.” Erebus had suspected he’d be given authority over the city, but now that Accursius had announced it in front of the rest of the Assembly, it was a reality.
Accursius turned to survey the banquet.
“Tell me, Erebus, what do you think?” he asked.
“Most impressive, my lord.”
Accursius looked at him sideways.
“Come now, Erebus. You and I have been through too much together to dilute the truth.”
“Yes sir,” Erebus said, wondering again how much of Accursius’ uncanny perception was a sharp eye and how much was telepathic ability. “The truth is I dislike drinking from glasses. The blood cools so quickly. Considering the quality of the menu tonight, I’d think you’d want to enjoy your selections fully.”
“True, true,” Accursius said with chuckle. He leaned closer and dropped his voice to a whisper. “The truth is it was the servers’ idea. I’ve learned to leave the planning of these get-togethers to them. I don’t have time for it, and they enjoy it. However, they do get carried away sometimes. Please, my friend, help yourself.” He raised his voice so it projected throughout the room. “All of you,” he motioned to the rest of the guests, “enjoy yourselves, please.”
Erebus smiled, nodding to Accursius in thanks. He looked the woman in the eyes as he walked back to the table. She was terrified. Good. Fear made the blood sweeter. Unfortunately, he couldn’t reach her inner thigh without getting on the table, and that would be rude. The hooks went under the ribs of her back, so he couldn’t easily pull her down without seriously injuring her. He reached out and wrapped his hand around one of her ankles. Her skin was warm; her body heat oozed into his cool hand. He pulled slightly, swinging her to him a bit more. He slid his tongue up the side of her calf, tasting her. Her skin was slightly salty with perspiration. Beneath that he could taste some kind of body spray. She smelled like fruit. Thankfully, she didn’t taste like fruit.
Erebus bit deeply into the woman’s calf. Unfortunately the mind control didn’t permit her to scream, but the terror in her quiet whimpers amped up a notch. Erebus drank deeply. He knew Accursius would have others to replace her, so there was no need to curb his appetite. The woman’s blood flowed into him, bringing him strength and warmth. Despite her obvious terror, the woman moaned with pleasure.
Erebus had been right. She was delicious.