Ian woke to a cool, black world and lifted the lid to his now comfortable coffin. The stray rays of candlelight along the walls seeped in, welcoming him to the mysterious world of the night.

He loved his new power that coursed through his veins. “What am I now capable of?” he asked the luminous walls around him. The flames of the halls suddenly flared up all at once. Was that just me? He thought to himself.

“No, it was I who woke the flames just now,” Jason pronounced as he flew into the room. “You can learn that you know but it comes with a price.”

“What price?” Ian replied. “How high of a price am I willing to take are you asking me?”

“Actually, no; I was enticing the issue of knowledge from a master to a pupil.” Jason waited, standing on a pile of coffins, studying Ian still sitting in his. “Are you ready to feed? You know, we all kill for each other. Just don’t go outside in the sun, for its light is a deadly fire to our kind. I also want to show you where the latest battle has been; live, kicking victims waiting for the taking. Shall we?” He motioned to the far door with a wave of his hand. Suddenly Ian’s body lifted up and he floated.

“It is calling to you, my friend,” Jason whispered. Even from far away, Ian could hear the words clearly in his mind. “Let me guide you in your flight.” Jason flew over to Ian who was whirling his arms and legs helplessly while he floated just off of the floor. Jason grabbed Ian and spun him around to stop him with a handshake. “You…are coming with me.” Together they flew to the door, the candles now flickering in their wake. They both kicked open the massive door and then flew up in a room with a domed, granite ceiling. Up and up they went, past a painting of a wicked battle with armored soldiers on prancing horses, lances out, swords drawn. ‘In the heat of battle,’ it was called. They sailed through the hole in the ceiling and landed in a dark empty hallway. “And here we are, my friend,” Jason said, “the labyrinth.”

From there they wound their way in and out of many halls, all carved out of the cold bones of Shadow Mountain. In some places the walls were worked to a smooth finish amongst the coarse rocky room’s surroundings. The hall they now walked was lined with arches that looked out over the room that contained the coffins. “How far do these halls go?” Ian asked.

“To the moon and back, my friend!” echoed the reply. Jason was walking at a quickened pace and then stopped at a door. “Here, these steps take us to the upper halls where the battle still continues.” Up they ran, many, many a stair. To count would be fruitless, for they kept on going. Eventually they stopped at a landing. “How far up do these stairs go? It surely is amazing what has been done to these mountains! “

“It has been a vision for millennia and now we fight for it. We should pick up a horde of weapons tonight to arm our armies. Enough of this! Let us fly the rest of the way up.” They focused together and a cold glow lit the stairs as they lifted up. “And now we FLY!” They said the last together. Mind-linking was something Ian was now realizing. He had many questions answered in his mind before he even said them. The stairs glowed with their passing and up ahead there was moonlight.

They landed in a finished hall, the floors an immaculate marble. Keep your voice in this place, thought Jason. Together like this we can take on any one mortal with a sword; any more unarmed as we are, we throw an assault of anger at them. It terrifies them and some drop their weapons and just flee. We may try it tonight.

The halls they walked looked out and down to the Valley of the Lost where Islands of rock protruded from the fog that shrouded the garden labyrinth. The pillars were as wide as a man is tall, holding up the rocky mountain face above. Jason led him to a white marble bench that looked out into the night. There they stopped and sat. “Shall we smoke?” asked Jason. He procured a pipe from his jacket and then a pouch. “This leaf comes from the islands of Sylth. It is of the best kind. Its flavor alone stimulates the senses.” Ian enjoyed the glow of the two sister moons and the awe-inspiring view before them.

Shadow Mountains - WM Misty Mountain Watercolor by Worley

“Just think of the things the two of us alone can do,” said Jason. “In time, you will fully come into your power, and then you will truly be unstoppable.”

“Our power is definitely intense,” said Ian. “I’ve dreamt of flying ever since I…changed.”

“What you became is a vampire, my friend; a child of the night. We cannot feel the sun’s glow, so we…buy paintings to satiate our longings. It helps, but this place…this place is ours. We cannot let it pass into the world of man. It, this beautiful place…these halls are all we have left.” Jason handed the pipe to Ian who took right to the intense flavor. Now he blew smoke rings into the night sky.

“The night is quiet here,” whispered Ian.

“Someone comes,” said Jason in reply. And now Ian could hear the hollow footsteps coming ever closer. A man came into view dressed all in black attire lined with elegant silver stitching. The cuffs of his burgundy shirt billowed out of his long black jacket. To Ian, he looked noble in the elaborate garb.

“Michael,” greeted Jason. “It is good of you to join us tonight. What brings you back to these halls?”

“Who’s this?” Michael’s rich accent marked him from the lands far across the ocean. And he looked upon Ian as one would a small child.

“A new friend,” Jason replied. “His name is Ian. Ian, say hello to my vampire friend Michael.”

“So you’re one of us?” Ian asked.

  “Yes and I have traveled far this night.” This he said looking at Jason with his cold, blue eyes. “Things are beginning to fall apart for our kind. I have just come back from Gogotha where I visited Alexia, our queen.” The last he added for Ian’s sake. Then he paused a moment, seemingly in thought. “She has told me of her visions. She says she had a vision of angels come to fight against us in battle. We must build our army and fast. Do you know of the castle known as McGuire Mansion?”

“Yes,” Jason replied. “The one on Crown Point on the island Ellisar.”

“Correct,” Michael said. “I have been told that it holds some strange power. It has stood on Crown Point for centuries and still no one knows who built it or why it is there. Now the strange tales about the place have come to her attention. I have appointed you to go see for yourself what this mysterious place is all about.”

Jason looked up at him with disappointment. Still, he reluctantly replied: “I will go tonight but you must show our new friend around.”

  Ian looked from Michael to Jason. Something told him to stay away from Michael and so he said: “I will be fine on my own.”

“He will be fine, my friend,” said Michael. “Now go, fly swiftly! The sun is not far from rising now spring is upon us.”

“I will,” said Jason. At that he flew out and up the farthest wall where he both flew and climbed until he reached the top. And then, he was gone.

  “So, you are now one of us,” said Michael when Jason had gone. “What do you think of your new powers?”

  “I am still awe-stuck at my amazing power. I feel…I feel like I can do anything I wish.”

   “It is true. In time, you will have unstoppable power.” Then he crinkled his nose and looked down at the pipe smoking in Ian’s hand and huffed sarcastically. “So, Jason has you smoking that terrible leaf!” He grinned. “I have something much better than that.” Then he reached into his jacket and when his hand lifted the collar, something glowed beneath his burgundy shirt. Ian breathed in sharply and Michael looked from his shirt to Ian’s eyes. “Ian, I have something I wish to show you but you must swear to keep it secret.” Michael’s cold blue eyes held Ian in their sway.

“I swear…” Ian’s voice trailed in the cool wind.

Michael lifted a silver chain around his neck and Ian beheld a stone that radiated an orange glow, giving a false warmth to Michael’s bloodless face.

“This stone has an awesome power.” Michael held it out to him and studied Ian’s face as he inspected it. “It protects any vampire who wears it from the sun’s rays. Three have been found. Some say the other ten are somewhere in the Valley of the Lost. I have been searching for them ever since. I am asking you for your assistance in this venture.”

“I would love to own one,” said Ian. “If I do find one, may I use it?”

“Most certainly, though the stones are meant for the ones who are the highest in Alexia’s favor. She doesn’t take lightly to weaklings. She is…” and Michael paused as if in a dream. “She is the most ruthless woman known to man and the most beautiful. She drives men mad and then, she usually kills them or makes them a slave to her will. Walk lightly around her if you meet. She has a morbid sense of humor about her.” And then he stuffed the stone back under his shirt and gave him a nod. “You will not tell anyone?” Ian shook his head. “Understand that there are many of us who would do anything to possess one of these.” Ian nodded his head and Michael’s face went from somber to almost pleasant then he nodded and in the space of a heartbeat became a blur, and then, he was gone.

Ian was left holding Jason’s pipe in his hands. He put it out and rose up stretching. The night was young and there was fresh blood in these halls, fresh blood he would find. Maybe he would make a vampire just like what was done to him. The things I will do tonight, Ian thought, will be of spectacular proportions.

He walked among the many pillars holding up the mountain face and came to a door and thrust it open. Before him was a room of magnificent beauty. The round wooden arches and beams of the room were teak, the walls blue. A painted mountain scene filled one large wall with a waterfall cascading from up high to fall into a pink sun-lit valley below. He stepped back and realized the whole scene hid one huge dragon with wings stretched. “Wow…what an artist this person is!” He exclaimed. After studying the painting he looked around at his surroundings. Satin, milky-white chairs surrounded a round wooden table with a glass top. In the middle was a tile of a sun and a moon entwined together. The chairs had smaller versions of the tile. Ian turned around, in love with the room. In the corner he found a simple door that opened into a small study.

After milling around for a time, he went back out and continued walking among the massive arches that followed along the seemingly endless mountain face, passing many different rooms, some, huge amphitheaters with seats set out for a play, some just a small, bare room. It was past a small room such as this where he found a door that went down, back into the mountain.

He descended the stairs, using his vampire eyes to guide him in the darkness. At the bottom he came to a hall lined with cells, the bars thicker than most he’d ever seen, though his memory still failed him. Behind the bars were thin, haggard people reduced to mere animals in their confinement. Food, perhaps, Ian thought to himself. He walked along, studying the people in their cages, some ranting to themselves, apparently gone mad.

At the end of the long hallway he found a door to a stairway that led back up. He followed the stairs and came to a cavernous room with arched, rock beams. It was massive. In every direction giant pillars reached into the darkness high above. A small window let in stray moonlight that illuminated a statue in the distance. “Which way should I go?” Ian looked both right and left and then began walking to the left, following the coarse granite wall.

After walking for quite some time, he came upon a corner of the room and found a towering wooden door. Even with his supernatural strength he strained to open it. The door inched open. In front of him were three staircases. The marble banisters and polished marble floors were fresh and gleaming. Supporting the balustrade were marble figures, some of which he guessed were deities of unknown origin.

In no time at all he found himself at the top, standing over the long dead body of some unfortunate man whose head had been nearly severed from the rest of him. He took the axe and the tobacco from the corpse and satisfied with his loot he walked along the length of the landing to a hall that seemed endless and lined with statues that became more and more alive, staring back at him. Eventually he came to a smaller wooden door. Behind it he found a pile of bodies, swords in hand. He searched them and found the golden coins with the lion’s head, the chosen symbol of Illian. He stooped, searching for more loot.

“Who are you?” echoed a voice down the hall. “What are you doing with my kills!?” A woman came walking quickly down the hall, her black, wavy hair cascading down her shoulders. When she caught up to him, her fiery blue eyes glared into his.

“My name’s Ian…I am…one of your allies.” He found that it was hard to speak for he was astounded by her magnificent beauty.

“A newborn…I see. Who made you?” She studied him expectantly.

Ian suddenly found that he was incapable of lying to her and felt a sudden desire to please her. “Jason, his name is Jason…he made me.”

“Well, Jason’s pet Ian, my name is Daria. I am Alexia’s pet, so to speak. I am…her darkest sword. My vengeance is swift and deadly. Do you want to play?” She stood with her blue eyes fixed on his and her leather-bound body gleaming in the stray moonlight from high above. Even her tight, black jacket showed off her female form that brought to Ian hidden desires from deep within.

Ian stood transfixed by her beauty and managed to reply: “Play, by play do you mean kill?” Ian folded his arms and took a step back, in awe of this deadly creature.

“Hmm…yesss.” Her voice was almost a seductive growl in the empty, blood-stained hall.

The wanton desire for blood coursed through him. “Then show me our prey.”

“Follow me,” she hissed and tossed him a sword. “That axe is too heavy for a newborn,” she added and then turned with a graceful cat-like twist sauntering down the hallway with Ian in her wake.