The smell was distant, but I knew the smell all too well for it to escape my nose. Sweet and powerful, it was a smell that made my lust rise from the shadows of my mind. Only another Vampire would know this smell as well as I. It was the smell of our prey's blood.
Dragons were ahead, perhaps not on the road, but not too far into the ruins either. They were injured, that was obvious from the smell, but I could not tell who had attacked them or if their enemy was still close.
I called to the Sorcerer of Blood. Nethandral, as he was called, was one of the only people that I trusted, and it somehow comforted me that his identity as a sorcerer was hidden. To my men, he was my advisor, and nothing more, and the King kept it that way. I think he liked having his own secret court of sorcerers, although his reasons for needing them were beyond me.
"What is ahead of us?"
"Dragons, my Commander. Injured Dragons, to be exact."
"Is that you using your nose or your magic, fool?" He knew I was only joking with him. He was the most brilliant man I knew.
"If you wanted me to use magic, you should have said so in the first place." He was joking back. It would amaze my men if they knew how much we jested when a battle was waiting to be won. "There are Dragons chained, being beat like slaves by a few stray Undead, although I do not know why or how the Undead managed this feat. I am not Rúín, my Commander."
Rúín was known as the King's main Sorcerer, to those who actually knew about the secret court. He never left the castle, at least, not without a disguise and enough guards to raise suspicion. It took something drastic to get him to leave. But he had a power that Nethandral did not: the power to see into the past.
"He is too scrawny and pale for me to try to bring along, Nethandral. He wouldn't last a few minutes in battle, even with his protections." I laughed. "However, this is no longer a matter of fighting Dragons away from our Realm. It is your call, as a man closer to the King than I."
Nethandral knew what I meant. I wanted him to contact the King, which wasn't difficult since they had blood-ties. I'd never experienced such a conversation, but Nethandral said it was simply as if he was speaking into the King's head, and vice versa.
"Kill them all. Their weakness is our strength."
"The Dragons are no longer a threat. The Undead seem to be our concern."
He shook his head. I realized he did not agree with the move himself. "A Vampire knows no compassion, Ashe. Better to remove the enemy while they are weak."
"Right. Compassion. What's that again?" I turned to my men. "There are Dragons ahead, although if your nose did not tell you that then let me kill you myself before the battle even begins. But, if we encounter any other race, before, during, or after the battle, you are to show no mercy to them either. Understood?"
I could hear murmuring among the men, but there was an understandable mix of "Yes sir" that was loud enough for me to get the gist. I knew they wouldn't back out of battle, as it would be suicide. There was nothing honorable about dying by execution for betrayal in battle.
The Vampires thrived off of honor.
However, I was going to have to speak to the King about getting a better Legion. These men might be good warriors, but they lacked a bit of true intelligence. I had become the best Commander the Vampires had ever seen, and yet Elleth still controlled the best Legion.
Elleth. I didn't like her. She was too nice for a Vampire. She had too much compassion. She acted more like a Lycan than she did of her own race.
As we got closer to the Dragons, I could hear their pain. A scream of theirs is a sound ravaging to the ears. Luckily, I was used to hearing their cries, as I would often hear it as they died by my hand. However, my Legion was not as fortunate. They moaned, and a few who thought that Nethandral and I weren't looking tried to run off.
Nethandral was quick to kill them, although to my dear Legion who didn't know of his abilities, it looked as if they had mysteriously perished. I hoped it would scare them. Maybe it would make them believe some strange magic was in the air.
"You act as if they would not cry out the same way if you were to kill them yourselves. Are you cowards to try to run from the already weakened? Pathetic. I might as well just kill you now and save you the troubled of dying by an enfeebled creature." I didn't even look at my Legion as I spoke. They knew I was speaking to them, and I had my eyes on something better.
There was a lone Dragon ahead, now in my view. He wasn't in his humanoid form, which seemed strange to me. If you are going to chain up a Dragon as badly as this one was, you would want to make sure he couldn't free himself by transforming. I also couldn't understand why he hadn't changed into his humanoid form to break loose of the chains.
I few feet closer and I could see his golden scales, glimmering under the moonlight with splattered red tints. He was an older Dragon; it was obvious by the bright white hair that crowned his back. It also held blood-stains, but mostly where the chains were tight and rubbed the skin beneath raw.
The elder was not alone, although he was the only one tied down. There were younger Dragons, perhaps even young enough to be Dragonlings, roaming around him, trying to pull the chains loose.
However, I did not see an Undead in sight. I called Nethandral over to me.
"Where are these Undead you saw?"
"Up the road, in their own territory. I am unsure why they left. Perchance they have a mage among them who sensed us coming."
"An Undead mage. I never thought I'd hear those words together. If they do have one, however, it would explain the Dragon's captivity." I did not have time to think about the possibilities. There were Dragons roaming free who could attack us at any moment.
The elder stopped his struggling and moaning when he saw us. He kept his eyes on me, but nudged at the little ones. I placed my hand on my weapon, ready to strike, but he had not ordered them to attack. Instead, they stopped chewing at his chains and went to huddle behind him, awaiting another order.
"Child, come speak to me alone." His voice rang clear, but it was a voice in my head. I'd heard of telepathic Dragon-speak, but just as I had never experienced telepathy with Nethandral, I had never experienced it myself.
I commanded my Legion to stay behind. They showed signs that they thought I was acting suspicious, but they said nothing. I knew they'd rather not face the Dragons.
The race of the Dragons had always been a beauty to me, and perhaps that is why I enjoyed killing them so much. To have such a stunning creature die at your hands… There is not a feeling as wonderful and accomplished as such.
Although the elder's image was not as gracious due to his gnarled hair and torn scales, the beauty was still there. In fact, the blood that covered him simply made me lust for his death more.
Yet, something drove me to listen to him, rather than to take his life then and there. A curiosity lived inside of me, and it was something I drove to quench. Often, the feelings of curiosity and blood-lust rivaled inside me, fighting to overcome my current emotion. Now, curiosity won.
"You are young, child, and yet much older than you should have lived to."
"I am only 64. Most Vampires lived into their 400s before death." I felt insulted that he had even suggested that I shouldn't be alive. I didn't even think to question why he had said such a thing.
"Yes?" I asked impatiently, my vision starting to get blurry. Why was I suddenly becoming dizzy?
"Child, you know not what you are."
"Speak in riddles, Dragon. I'm apparently only a child and do not understand you."
The world became black.