Chapter OneTorstenI stand atop the highest point of the tallest building in the city, my chest bare as the icy cold wind whips at me. I let it blast against my chest as clouds drift by me, coating me in their biting cold.
I need to feel something.
Alive, if that’s possible for a man like me.
I laugh grimly and spread my arms to my sides, letting another gust blast right into my middle. The half-moon watches impassively and my mind returns to the past, as it has been doing a lot lately. As the city glitters below and the stars peep through the clouds above, my memories rear up like shadowy phantoms.
I remember the sloshing of the war-ships, crashing against the waves as the jagged rocky shores of yet another land to be claimed appeared on the skyline before us. I remember holding a shield so tightly the grip biting into my hand, and the sword at my hip, the old rusty sword because I was just a child, a child sent off to war.
I remember standing in the shield wall and roaring until the tendons in my throat felt like they were going to burst. That was my first battle and nearly my bloodiest.
In my human life, at least.
Those were more savage times when the inky showers of blood marking the air were a normal thing when men didn’t flinch at the thought of violence.
I remember more battles, more and more until my whole life had been a long series of war and bloodshed and rage, the blood-hot rage that moved through me like a force of nature, unstoppable.
And then my final battle as a mortal man, standing in a muddy clearing with countless dead littering the ground around me.
Back then, I’d devoutly believed in the gods, in Odin’s Valkyries slashing through the sky, waiting to claim the worthy dead. As I’d stood there, waiting for the enemy to charge me down and finish me off, I’d had a broad smile on my face.
That was it. That was the end. And I was glad to be going to those heavenly halls.
But the sorcerer came instead, with his cloak of shadow and his rune-covered face. “I’ve been watching for you a long time, Torsten, son of Harald,” he told me. “You are the fiercest warrior of your generation. Not the most celebrated, not the most famed, but the fiercest, and you have been selected to never die.”
“Never die?” I growled, laughing, thinking it was some trick. “I’m not scared of death.”
“No.” The man smiled with thin blue lips. “That’s why you’ve been chosen.”
And so it was that I became a vampyr, one of the old kind, my fangs as sharp as razors and hidden if I so needed, my body drained of life except that which I could find in the pumping veins of the mortal race. My charms came to me easily enough, those simple spells that could calm or enrage or enslave.
I grit my teeth now as the rain starts, lashing down at me like ice-cold whips, cutting into my bare chest, the skin opening and then closing instantly as I heal, as I’ll always heal until I drive a blessed stake through my heart.
Years and years, hundreds of them, so many years that the forty-summers old man who’d been changed began to seem like a boy to me.
I’d always appear to be those forty years, but inside I was – I am – so much older, wiser. I’ve met more of my kind. But they’re all gone now. So are the sorcerers.
And I’m waiting.
I laugh at the sky like a wild beast.
Back when I was still feeding – some more than two-hundred years ago – a sorcerer had given me an amulet that was rumored to be able to turn my kind back into mortal men. But the only way this could happen was if I found the woman I would claim, the mortal woman who would be mine, and mine alone. I’d know when I saw her. Deep in my primordial bones, I’d just fucking know.
But she never came.
Over the long years, after the war between the vampyrs and the sorcerers that left me the last magical being in this twisted world, as men rose from the dirt and built cities of metal, as their machines thundered across the skein of the world, I waited.
And she never came.
I’d searched far and wide for this woman who would finally make me feel something again, who would penetrate the gruff emptiness that had come to characterize my very being. I’d been a nobleman, a soldier in the Great War, a fisherman, diplomat, farmer, engineer, pilot, professor, and countless other professions, innumerable lives lived, and now I was a businessman, a wealthy, private man.
And I’d never found her.