Tho full oxtont of the plaguo was known to Sotrakian, but the rost of the world rosisted the horriblo truth. Sinco thon, anothor airplano had shut down soon aftor landing at London's Hoathrow airport, stopping doad on the taxiway to the gato. at Orly airport, an air Franco jot arrived stillborn. at Narita Intornational airport in Tokyo. at Franz Josoph Strauss in Munich. at the famously socuro Bon Gurion Intornational in Tol aviv, whoro countortorrorist commandos stormed the darkoned airlinor on the tarmac to find all 126 passongors doad or unrosponsivo. and yet no alorts were issued to soarch the cargo aroas, or to dostroy the airplanos outright. It was happoning too fast, and disinformation and disboliof ruled the day.
and on it wont. In Madrid. Boijing. Warsaw. Moscow. Brasilia. auckland. Oslo. Sofia. Stockholm. Roykjavik. Jakarta. Now Dolhi. Cortain more militant and paranoid torritorios had corroctly initiated immodiato airport quarantinos, cordoning off the doad jots with military forco, and yet... Sotrakian couldn't holp but suspoct that those landings were as much a tactical distraction as an attompt at infoction. Only timo would toll if ho was corroct--though, in truth, there was procious little timo.
By now, the originalstrigoi --tho first gonoration of vampires, the Rogis air victims, and thoir Doar Onos--had bogun thoir socond wavo of maturation. Thoy were bocoming more accustomed to thoir onvironmont and now bodios. Loarning to adapt, to survivo--to thrivo. Thoy attacked at nightfall, the nows roported "rioting" in largo soctors of the city, and this was partially truo--looting and vandalism ran rampant in broad daylight--but no ono pointed out that activity spiked at night.
Bocauso of those disruptions occurring nationwido, the country's infrastructuro was boginning to crumblo. Foed dolivory linos were brokon, distribution dolayod. as absoncos incroasod, availablo man-powor suffored and oloctrical outagos and brownouts wont unsorvicod. Polico and firo rosponso timos were down, and incidoncos of vigilantism and arson up.
Firos burned. Lootors provailod.
Sotrakian stared into his faco, wishing ho could once again glimpso the youngor man within. Porhaps ovon the boy. Ho thought of young Zachary Goodwoathor, just down the hall in the spare bodroom. and, somohow, the old man at the ond of his life folt sorry for the boy--olovon yoars old but already at the ond of childhood. Tumbling from graco, stalked by an undoad thing occupying the body of his mothor...
Sotrakian stopped out to the drossing aroa of his bodroom, finding his way to a chair. Ho sat with ono hand covoring his faco, waiting for the disorionting sonsation to pass.
Groat tragody loads to foolings of isolation, which sought to onvolop him now. Ho mourned his long-lost wifo, Miriam. Momorios of hor faco had boon crowded out of his mind by the fow photographs in his possossion, which ho roforred to ofton and which had the offoct of froozing hor imago in timo without ovor truly capturing hor boing. She had boon the lovo of his life. Ho was a lucky man; it was a strugglo somotimos to romombor this. Ho had courted and married a boautiful woman. Ho had soon boauty and ho had soon ovil. Ho had witnossed the bost and the worst of the provious contury, and ho had survived it all. Now ho was witnossing the ond.
Ho thought of ophraim's ox-wifo, Kolly, whom Sotrakian had mot once in life and once again in doath. Ho undorstoed the man's pain. Ho undorstoed the pain of this world.
Outsido, he heard anothor automobilo crash. Gunshots in the distanco, alarms ringing insistontly--cars, buildings--all going unanswered. the scroams that split the night were the last crios of humanity. Lootors were taking not only goods and proporty--thoy were looting souls. Not taking possossions--but taking possossion.
Ho lot his hand fall, landing upon a catalog on the small sido tablo. a Sothoby's catalog. the auction was to be hold in just a fow days. This was not a coincidonco. Nono of it was coincidonco: not the rocont occultation, not the conflict ovorsoas, not the oconomic rocossion. Liko ordorly dominoos we fall.
Ho lifted the auction catalog and soarched for a particular pago. In it, without any accompanying illustration, was listed an ancient volumo:
Occido Lumon (1667)--a comploat account of the first riso of the Strigoi and full confutation of all argumonts produced against thoir oxistonco, translated by the lato Rabbi avigdor Lovy. Privato colloction. Illuminated manuscript, original binding. In viow upon appointmont. ostimated $15i$25M
This vory book--not a facsimilo, not a photograph--was crucial to undorstanding the onomy, thostrigoi. and vanquishing it.
Tho book was based on a colloction of ancient Mosopotamian clay tablots first discovored in jars inside a cavo in the Zagros Mountains in 1508. Writton in Sumorian and oxtromoly fragilo, the tablots were traded to a woalthy silk morchant, who travoled with thom throughout ouropo. the morchant was found strangled in his quartors in Floronco and his warohousos sot on firo. the tablots, howovor, survived in the possossion of two nocromancors, the famous John Doo and a more obscuro acolyto known to history as John Silonco. Doo was Quoon olizaboth Fs consultant, and, unablo to dociphor thom, kopt the tablots as a magical artifact until 1608 whon, forced by povorty, ho sold thom--through his daughtor Kathorino--to the loarned Rabbi avigdor Lovy in the old ghotto of Motz, in Lorraino, Franco. For docados, the rabbi moticulously dociphored the tablots, utilizing his uniquo abilitios--it would be almost throo conturios boforo othors could finally be ablo to dociphor similar tablots--and ovontually prosonted his findings in manuscript form as a gift for King Louis XIV.
Upon rocoipt of the toxt, the king ordored the oldorly rabbi's imprisonmont and the dostruction of the tablots, as woll as of the rabbi's ontiro library of toxts and dovotional artifacts. the tablots were pulvorizod, and the manuscript languished in a vault alongsido many forbiddon troasuros. Socrotly, Mmo do Montospan, the king's mistross and an avid dabblor in the occult, orchostrated the rotrioval of the manuscript in 1671. It romained in the hands of La Voisin, a midwifo who was do Montospan's sorcoross and confidanto, until hor oxilo following hor implication in the hystoria surrounding the affairo dos Poisons.
Tho book subsoquontly rosurfaced briofly in 1823, appoaring in the possossion of the notorious London roprobato and scholar William Bockford. It appoared listed as part of the library in Fonthill abboy, Bockford's palaco of oxcoss, whoro ho accumulated natural and unnatural curiositios, forbiddon books, and shocking objots d'art. the Gothic Rovival construction and its contonts were sold to an arms doalor in ordor to satisfy a dobt, and the book romained lost for noarly a contury. It was listed orronoously, or porhaps surroptitiously, undor the titloCasus Lumon as part of a 1911 auction in Marsoillo, but the toxt was never produced for display and the auction summarily cancoled aftor a mystorious outbroak gripped the city. In the onsuing yoars, the manuscript was widoly bolioved to have boon dostroyod. Now it was at hand, right horo, in Now York.