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About Digital Art / Hobbyist Official Beta Tester A Land of Delusion awaits...Female/United States Groups :iconspiderforest: Spiderforest
 
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Tigershark06
A Land of Delusion awaits...
Artist | Hobbyist | Digital Art
United States
Thanks Are Not Spam by sarahn


I have a strange fascination for a mix of Vampires, Dhampirs, Mutants and a strong flavor of Science Fiction! I love to write and draw, and projects that let me do both!


Current Residence: Central California
Favourite genre of music: Country
Favourite photographer: Ansel Adams
Favourite cartoon character: Goliath - Gargoyles
Personal Quote: "Do I look like a myth to you?" ~ Cabal
Interests

Planned Hiatus/Fanart request

Journal Entry: Sun Jul 24, 2016, 8:57 PM
Tonight I come with a special request...  This coming October, I am planning on a month long hiatus from webcomicking.  From October 1st through the 30th I will be taking a breather.

From experience, I've found that that month in particular is extremely stressful in my job (first quarter grades etc).  ADD to that - my weekends are going to be non-existent during that month because of recreational activities that will be happening every weekend, unless a miracle occurs and I am able to accomplish my goal on the first weekend.  And weekends is when I usually set aside time for arting.

This is where I ask the favor.  I would dearly love it if people would be willing to step up and provide some art for me to fill the four weeks each for TOHS and for Plague!  

Fanart - Absolutely!
Fan Comics - I'd love you to death!
Halloween crossovers?  You betcha!

My hope is to resume Plague on October 31st and TOHS on November 3rd.

All contributions will be displayed on the day of the update (in the order received) with full credits for the work and a link back to your comic/DA page/ETC.

Help a sista out!  The past two years have proved to me that October is Hell Week times four, and this would really allow me to focus on a buffer as well as getting what needs to get done done during that time-frame!

  • Listening to: Farm Equipment
  • Reading: Tales from the Dead Zone VOL 1 What? I'm editing!
  • Watching: Nothing!
  • Eating: Nothing
  • Drinking: Tea... as usual!

Tales from the Dead Zone Vol 2 is OUT! I have physical inventory in addition to ordering from the internet! :) 

50%
1 deviant said Oooo Kindle version sounds AWESOME! Only $1.50? Even BETTER! (Kindle apps are free to download even if you DON'T own a kindle! APPLE, ANDROID, WINDOWS, and PC!)
50%
1 deviant said SPECIAL OFFER: Dead Zone Vol 1&2 (Autographed) for a mere $15 + S&H! (Again PM me for details!)
0%
No deviants said Oh but I like the feel of pages in my hand! How about the Print Version? Not a bad deal at $8.50 (Plus S&H)!
0%
No deviants said But But... I want an autographed copy!! (Please PM me! $8.50 + S&H)

Activity


Planned Hiatus/Fanart request

Journal Entry: Sun Jul 24, 2016, 8:57 PM
Tonight I come with a special request...  This coming October, I am planning on a month long hiatus from webcomicking.  From October 1st through the 30th I will be taking a breather.

From experience, I've found that that month in particular is extremely stressful in my job (first quarter grades etc).  ADD to that - my weekends are going to be non-existent during that month because of recreational activities that will be happening every weekend, unless a miracle occurs and I am able to accomplish my goal on the first weekend.  And weekends is when I usually set aside time for arting.

This is where I ask the favor.  I would dearly love it if people would be willing to step up and provide some art for me to fill the four weeks each for TOHS and for Plague!  

Fanart - Absolutely!
Fan Comics - I'd love you to death!
Halloween crossovers?  You betcha!

My hope is to resume Plague on October 31st and TOHS on November 3rd.

All contributions will be displayed on the day of the update (in the order received) with full credits for the work and a link back to your comic/DA page/ETC.

Help a sista out!  The past two years have proved to me that October is Hell Week times four, and this would really allow me to focus on a buffer as well as getting what needs to get done done during that time-frame!

  • Listening to: Farm Equipment
  • Reading: Tales from the Dead Zone VOL 1 What? I'm editing!
  • Watching: Nothing!
  • Eating: Nothing
  • Drinking: Tea... as usual!

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11: A Window Opened

 

    “Well?” Meirakat demanded as soon as he set foot inside the hospital.

    One of the many places the former human residents abandoned, the house had already absorbed it into the property.  Carefully, they had cordoned off an area where Phillip and a small human team of nurses could unlock the mystery of this newest illness.

    There were now ten victims of the mystery virus.  The onset varied, with some falling ill just hours after being attended by a vampire to several weeks.  This added confusion to how the virus was being transmitted.  Once more a population of the house was in isolation pending any breakthroughs.

    Phillip looked more haggard than before, but straightened and met Meirakat’s eyes.

    Meirakat found himself admiring the man, not for his prowess as a doctor so much as how he never bowed and scraped when vampires were present.  Meirakat found that refreshing after so long dealing with human fear.

    “Luckily this doesn’t seem to be communicable by touch.  It’s not airborne.  All of those tests have come back negative.  So, we can rule out raging epidemic within the population.” Phillip sighed, “This seems to be something blood-borne and the only commonality I’ve been able to determine is the feedings.”

    “You’re just saying that because you hate us,” Salcedo, one of the newer vampires in his court snarled.  Meirakat suppressed a smile.  He’d been thinking something similar.

    “No.” He shook his head to emphasize.  “I’m a doctor – and that trumps any personal feelings I have for the likes of you.”

    He waved their small party towards one of the rooms.  They entered to find the original victim lying slack and deathlike on the mattress. 

    “Is she…?”

    “Heavily sedated,” he answered before the question was complete.  Phillip moved directly bedside and lifted her upper lip.  “Her physiology is changing.  Her canines have reshaped.”

    He pushed on the tooth in question and Meirakat’s eyes widened as it receded into the gum line somewhat only to extend again when pressure was removed.

    “They’re retractable, like yours.”

    He turned to a computer screen next to the gurney and keyed up several images.  “Her x-rays.”

    Side by side were images of her skull and hands.  Though the images were blurry it was clear to see the differences from what Meirakat knew was the norm for a human.  Two sharp sets of teeth were evident in the upper jaw, new bone formations through which ran new ligaments and tendons.   Lower jaw sported slightly shorter gripping teeth.  Her hands were no less reshaped.  Claws hid beneath normal human nail sheaths.

    “She’s becoming – has become – vampire?” Salcedo whispered in awe.

    “That’s my current theory, yes.”  He stepped away from the gurney, apparently fearful that the creature on the bed would leap up and attack him. “Bloodwork is confusing.  She was vaccinated – carried the virus.”

    Meirakat frowned at the reminder of the viral bomb.

    “But, when I checked it against the original strain, it seems it has… mutated.”

    “Spontaneously?  That seems very unlikely,” Meirakat growled.

    “No.  I don’t believe this was some random mutation.  Not in the human body.”  He faced Meirakat once more, crossing his arm and frowning heavily.  “I need saliva samples from your people.  One candidate I can do a thorough examination on.  I know electronic scanning won’t work.  That’s why her x-rays came out so fuzzy.  She’s already starting to emit a field.  I need to do a physical work up.”

    Meirakat looked sidelong at the human.  He was suggesting they were somehow infecting their hosts at each feeding?  The thought was ludicrous.

    “Do you want me to crack this or not?  You’re starting to look at another strange epidemic here if we don’t figure this out soon,” Phillip said.

    “What kinds of sampling?”

    “Blood, Saliva.  Physically I would be looking for physiological changes in your people that may be driving this.”

    His wording implied that he had physical data from vampires before this virus was released.  A hard sour knot started to form in his chest at the thought.  He didn’t like that a human knew so much about the vampire breed, nor how the man may have come by that information.

    He set his misgivings aside, glancing over his shoulder. “Alstaire?”

    “My Lord?  How soon will you need the volunteer?”

    “Within the hour.  Ensure they are escorted.”

    “I promise no harm,” Phillip sighed in frustration.

    “The escort is for your protection, Phillip.  My people know who you are, what you did, you’re lucky they haven’t been more – aggressive – feeding from you before now.”

    The man had the decency to pale.

    As he turned away he said, “I will expect regular updates.  I also expect you will treat my family properly while you find the answers you need.”

    Phillip didn’t answer, but Meirakat could feel his glare on the back of his skull.

    Three days later, much quicker than Meirakat anticipated, the human called him back into the hospital.

    “Well?”

    “I’m certain I’ve discovered the cause.” Phillip exhibited the excitement that comes from accomplishment.  He twisted but a moment, grabbing something off his desk before wheeling around and slapping it on the table between them.  Scribbled notes surrounded intricate drawings of teeth and jaws, muscles and tendons.

    Meirakat lifted a brow at the man for the crude recordings.

    “What?  Vampires can’t be photographed or scanned or x-rayed.  Trust me that would have taken a hell of a lot less time!”  He straightened, flipping through pages to the beginning.  “Anyway.  Here are the drawings when I first started researching.  Here in the upper jaw… retractable canines, two sets, one for holding one for piercing.  The musculature and the ligaments which make them function.”

    Frantically he flipped back to where he started, choosing to avoid the angry expression rising on Meirakat’s face.  He had a clue how the man managed to get such detailing.  His subject probably wasn’t alive for the process.

    “Take a look at this…” He jabbed his finger repeatedly into a newer drawing.  While less detailed there were distinct differences between what was before and what he discovered.

    “What is this?”  Meirakat circled an oblong organ about the size of a quarter just aft of the upper set of canines.

    “That is the cause of the problem.”

    “And what is that?”

    Phillip met his gaze.  “It’s a gland, brand new, it wasn’t there pre-virus.  Your volunteer was kind enough to allow me to extract some fluid from it.”

    He motioned Meirakat over to a microscope.  Reluctantly Meirakat leaned over peering into the eyepieces.  There were two images side by side both of small organisms swimming about a saline solution.

    “What am I looking at?” he asked absently, unable to help his fascination at how miniscule a living thing could be.

    “On the left is the original virus.  The right holds the mutation.  You’ll notice the slight differences between the two, the right is slightly larger, more oblong than the left.  What’s interesting to note…”  Phillip pushed on Meirakat’s shoulder and then leaned in as the vampire leaned away.  With a dropper he introduced a new fluid into each sample.

    Meirakat immediately resumed looking.  “What did you add?”

    “Human cells.  Watch what happens.”

    The virus in both dishes immediately attacked the introduced cells.  However, the virus on the left merely manipulated the cell and then swam off.  On the right however, the virus aggressively latched onto the human cell invading its DNA and leaving matter behind.

    Flabbergasted, Meirakat leaned back and met Phillip’s exuberant gaze.

    “The virus on the right was what I extracted from that gland.”

    “So you’re telling me…?”

    “Blood and saliva tests tell me that these mutated viral cells are in a vampire’s bloodstream at all times.  Low numbers, and not really enough to cause problems.  However that gland…”  His eyes got large.  “It is focusing and concentrating the virus in one location.  Now take a look at this.”

    He dashed over to the table again and pointed to another of his drawings in the book.  “The second, shorter set of canines in the upper jaw has a natural groove on its inner surface – always has.  The gland has formed in such a way that when squeezed by the muscles extending the teeth, it releases this virus-laden fluid just above this groove.  The fluid follows the groove right into the open wound.  So when a vampire feeds, he or she is introducing the virus in concentrated amounts.”

    Meirakat blinked.  “Like a… viper?”

    Phillip nodded.

    “So you mean to tell me your viral bomb has changed us in such a way that we can now actively turn humans into vampires?”

    All the excitement and humor went out of Phillip’s expression.  “I’m afraid so.”

    Meirakat turned away, contemplating that news.  “What is the virility of this mutated virus?”

    “It is aggressive.  I would have to run some more tests with the samples I have.  But early estimates?  I’d say this is going to have a seventy-five percent conversion rate.  And that is on the low side.”

    Once more Meirakat looked at the human sidelong, one brow rising.  Without saying more he left the human’s office.

    “My Lord?”  Alstaire broke his contemplation.  “What are you thinking?”

    “I’m not sure yet.”

    Salcedo, way too excited for the occasion, uttered, “This isn’t a curse, Lord Meirakat, it’s a blessing!”

    “How so, Salcedo?” He glared at the younger man.

    “We can replace our numbers!  Our fears of extinction are no more.”

    “Aye, there is that,” he sighed.

    “You see a downside, My Lord?”  Alstaire asked, helping to spur his thoughts.

    He glanced at his advisor.  “Our race has always maintained a population one tenth the size of the human population, or it did when it was able to control its births.  Like all predators, we must remain small in number compared to our prey or else causing an irrecoverable attrition.”  He sighed again, running a hand through his hair.  “While I don’t disagree this is a boon for our flagging population, I do worry about the other end of the spectrum.  With it so easy to convert humans to vampires, we risk overpopulation.  We also risk a dwindling food supply.”

    That sobered Salcedo’s excitement.

    “We must think on this…”

    “Quickly, My Lord.  If the doctor’s estimates are to be believed, we are going to have a population explosion in short order.”

    ******

     

    Was it so wrong to want equilibrium?  Balance?  A happy medium?

    Meirakat pondered that as he took in the sight before him.  The hospital was in shambles.

    Blood soaked the floor, splattered the walls.  Bodies lay in pieces all about their group.

    Not all humans were prepared for the life immortal it seemed.  Three out of four of the accidental conversions ended up bat-shit crazy – as willing to maim and kill another vampire as the other humans around them.  Phillip had been killed by the woman who first brought the mutation to their attention.  She had broken her bonds on the bed and tore the doctor to pieces even as she sucked out his life.  When a contingent from the house had gone to welcome her – after all even sirelings were violent in their first feeding – she proceeded to fell them as she could.

    They had to put her down.  They had to put many of them down.

    That’s what this sweep was about.

    “Empusai,” he whispered, and immediately the group returned to his side.

    “We have one possible salvage of the situation, My Lord,” Sorsha bit out.

    “Have him…?”  He raised a brow.

    “Her, My Lord.”

    “…Her taken to the house.  Isolate and closely monitor her for any signs of fracture.”

    She merely nodded and slipped away.

    He then turned to another in the empusai, “What other report?”

    “The building has been cleansed, My Lord.  Except the candidate Sorsha mentioned, they had all exhibited imbalance.”

    Meirakat wasn’t so sure that was true, but chose not to call the man on his claim.  After all, there were some “purists” in their ranks who had no desire to add converted humans to their ranks.  He found it somewhat humorous when they were perfectly all right with sirelings.  What they saw as the difference, he wasn’t sure.

    “Good.  Have the other teams reported from the stables?”

    “The sweep is still underway.  So far they’ve found twenty more showing signs.  They’re being taken to isolation rooms.”

    Meirakat frowned heavily.  “I want the new protocols in place.  Group feedings only, hosts are to be killed following, is that understood?  We’re not going to just turn every Tom, Dick, and Harry in our stables to this side of the immortal.”

    “Yes, My Lord.”

    “Be sure they understand there will be severe recriminations for any who disregard the protocol.”

    “Understood, Lord Meirakat.”

    That man turned to pass the information along to the house.

    Meirakat turned to yet another of his newly formed empusai team.  “Let’s get this mess cleaned up.”

    “Yes sir.”

    As they worked in silence to clean up the evidence of their violence, Meirakat continued to ponder who they were going to use this open window to their advantage.  The fever burned through the humans, and a weak mind led to madness in the process of the change.  Continuing to just turn them all and then have to destroy them on the other end was not going to be an effective method of repopulation.  Candidates for their way of life were going to have to be carefully screened and conditioned for the change.

    Group feedings were definitely a must.  Three to four vampires could feed from a single human.  As yet, there was no evidence that the humans bled in this manner and killed would resurrect this side of the immortal.

    He wondered also if there was a way their new physiology – the ability to transmit the virus – could be somehow controlled.  He wasn’t keen on continuing to kill every human to come under his teeth, it was a wasteful practice.  Could they somehow train themselves to infect only those they wanted this side of the immortal?  The fangs employed were a secondary set, perhaps they could train their muscles to only respond when they wanted it to. 

    How long would such an evolutionary step take?

    Meirakat frowned as he bagged yet another body part.  He hoped sooner rather than later.  If word got out to the human populations at large, they could be in for another, larger conflict.  He didn’t want that.

    Balance.  It was all he was asking to find.

     

    END

     

End of an Era 11
There was more I was going to introduce into this story, but I decided that THAT set of developments should have its own story!  :)  Thank you for taking the time to read EoaE... I truly appreciate you take a gander at my "origin story" for my take on the vampire race.
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    10: Aftershocks

     

    While their group had cut the head off of the snake, the humans didn’t just roll over.  For several days Meirakat and his new group of empusai combed the streets or fended off further attacks by the holdovers. 

    In ruthless fashion, Meirakat dealt with each uprising in the same way.  Killing most of each group, he only spared the leaders of the raids, interring them with the growing number of humans below the house.  By the end of the following week the number of humans in the pens nearly doubled.

    When that had been quelled, only then, did he allow his house members to begin the cleanup of their dead.

    “And how would you propose they handle that, My Lord?”  Alstaire inquired.

    Meirakat peered up from several reports which had demanded his attention.  Pressing his lips into thin lines, he contemplated that.  Drawing a breath and letting it out slowly, he finally responded.  “They will have to be removed from the house proper, Alstaire.”

    “Would it not be easier to just… let the light in?  Pile the dead near the windows and let the sun do the job for us?”

    “Easier, yes.  The stench already permeates the halls.  I don’t know about you, Alstaire, I need no more reminder of what the humans did to our house.  Besides, how would we replace the curtains afterwards?”

    Alstaire bowed just a little.  “Logical, My Lord.”

    “Start putting crews together.  We know where all the dead are by this point, correct?”

    “Yes.” Alstaire’s expression soured. “A pity we couldn’t put them to rest earlier than this.”

    “It has felt disrespectful all along,” Meirakat admitted, “but the ruse needed to be maintained until our enemies could be flushed out and dealt with.”

    “I would not presume to argue, sir.”

    Sighing, Meirakat rose.  “We will take the dead to the west lawn, and lay them out.  Helios will get his tribute.  We will need all able-bodied personnel to assist in the effort if we are to clear the house before dawn.”

    “Yes, My Lord.”

    “I shall be up shortly.”

    “My Lord?” Alstaire’s expression reflected his shock.

    He raised a brow at his aide.  “Am I not an able-bodied soul?”

    “Of course, My Lord, but…” He shook his head, “you needn’t…”

    “I needn’t, but I will.”  His expression hardened at the thought Alstaire would try to protect him from the horrors still littering the floors.  “I will not stand by and let others handle the less than pleasant tasks of this house in my stead.  I am empusai – do not forget that.  Death of this magnitude is not foreign to me.”

    Alstaire bowed and retreated without saying more.  As the door slipped closed, Meirakat rose from his seat.  He moved from his office to the small corner of a room that was now his sleeping area.  He paused a moment, unable to help the pain that swelled in his chest.  Once more it was not for the current arrangements, but for the lack of companionship to share the space with.  He was lonely – he was alone, and that hurt worst of all.  Pinching his eyes shut, he fought the grief once again.  He took a deep breath and let it out slowly before opening his eyes.  From there he made quick work of finding suitable clothing for the grim and gruesome task before him.

    He returned to the main hall wearing no more than a pair of jeans, heavy work boots and a long sleeved shirt.  They weren’t even his clothes, simply spares from one of the emptied rooms in the house.  Around his neck hung a bandana, already fitted to cover his nose and mouth.  For the job they were going to be perfect.

    When he arrived at the main floor, it was obvious the working parties had already been giving their marching orders and were dispersing to begin.  His appearance halted them all in their tracks.

    Awed expressions followed his progress, pride soon followed.  This was why he needed to be here.  He patted several on the shoulders as he moved by them.  Yet, he had no speeches to give, no words of encouragement.  It was improper and inappropriate to grandstand when they were faced with such grotesque work.

    He continued to move as he made the edge of the small crowd.  His destination was already firmly in his mind.  Before he made it to the first junction, he lifted the bandana into place, already finding bodies about his feet.  The decay was advanced, the smell atrocious, and the bandana only cut it a little.  Flies lit on most of the bodies, feasting. Many of the faces he recognized, despite the decomposition, and he paused to say small prayers over them at intervals – not to any human gods.  He’d seen enough of the world that gods no longer held sway.  Still he offered what words he could, even when there was no soul attached to the flesh at his feet.

    His pause was longer as he reached the place where the three of them had hidden.  Despite all his steeling of nerves, the pain slammed into his chest as he took in the interior.  He swallowed against the lump in his throat, no longer trying to hide or hold back the tears that sprang to his eyes.  Three quick steps took him to her side, where he halted again, almost afraid to lower himself closer.  Plucking up his courage, he knelt by her body, anguished to see the way flesh sagged loosely on her bones – how her hair had fallen completely out.  Unlike many in the hall above, she was more intact. 

    He sniveled a moment, realizing the cool dry air had retarded the rot somewhat.

    “Elpis,” he whispered in a broken voice.  Once again, his mind wanted to make this into a nightmare from which he might awake.  Unthinking he reached for her hand.  His fingers sinking past the skin into the liquefying flesh beneath slammed reality home once more.  He let go quickly, wiping the ichors on the bedding beneath her body, already sopping and stinking of it.

    “You saved me, my love,” he croaked.  “That I could not do the same…”

    He trailed off shaking his head and continuing to weep over her.

    When his tears had run dry and his grief had turned to numbness, he finally focused once more.  He had a purpose.  And Elpis – their family had been desecrated long enough.  He used his sleeve to wipe his eyes, to clear the dribbling mess from his nose and mouth.  Only in private would he show such weakness.  He drew in and released one last pained breath in Elpis memory.

    Leaning forward, he wrapped her in the bedding and lifted her from the floor.  He wanted to gag as the soft flesh split and the cold liquid seeped through and began dripping onto him and the floor.

    In private! he ordered himself.  This is just another body – another corpse.  She’s long gone.

    It was tough to convince himself of that, even when it was true.  The things that had made Elpis who she was had fled her flesh upon death.  Yet, his mind could not easily disassociate the two.  How could he not?  They had been mates for centuries, for millennia.

    Freeing himself from the room he retraced his steps to the main hall.  Once more the workers stopped in their efforts to watch him go by, all of them bowed and lowered their gaze.  Meirakat couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge the signs of respect for fear of breaking down all over again.  Instead he kept moving, leaving his focus only for the end of the hall, the exit, the west lawn.

    Bodies were already lined up, no matter how desiccated or decayed, they were placed in neat rows each corpse touching the next.  The sight sent home the severity of the loss for his house.  The west lawn was expansive, exposed to the sun for a great majority of the day.  It was the perfect spot for the pyre, no matter how many of their house members needed to fill the space.  The grass would be in ruins afterwards, but the alternative was one he didn’t want to think about.

    Moving to the end of one already long row, he gently laid his mate onto the grass.  He remained knelt there for a moment longer, stroking the shroud one last time and saying a silent goodbye.  Rising, he turned away, not looking back, and headed for the house once more.  His job was not done with that one act, there was much more to be accomplished.  Consulting his watch, he realized they only had six more hours in which to finish the clean out.

    It was dirty demanding work, heart-wrenching, depressing.  No one complained, though some went about the task with fits of weeping.  They all coordinated their efforts, managing to clear the lost souls from the halls and rooms of the house just as color was beginning to paint the sky.  In a sort of mass mourning, the remains of the house gathered to say their last goodbyes and pay respects to those they knew or just associated with.

    Twenty-seven remained of one hundred sixty eight vampires.  So close to extinction with no way of boosting their numbers easily.  The humans had done it right, and Meirakat wasn’t sure if they would ever recover. 

    The survivors stood in the foyer watching as the sky turned purple, then red.  When that shade changed to orange, Meirakat found himself muttering for Helios to be kind to his people.  Even after a millennia, even after all his talk about not believing in the gods – any of them, he still wanted that power to be there.

    Anything but oblivion for his mate – his people.

    “Let’s retire,” he sighed.  “The remaining cleanup will wait for another night.”

    Not waiting for them to acknowledge that, he turned away from the door, heading back down stairs.  The solemn clang announced one of their party shutting the sun away from the interior.

    The next week was spent cleaning and sanitizing.  So many rotting bodies left the house slick and stinking of death, and it was no easy task getting it back in some kind of order.  They enlisted their new stable of humans to help – punishment for the part they played in the destruction of the vampire way of life.

    Slowly, ever so slowly, the house became livable again.  The survivors eventually were able to move from the basements back into the many rooms of the house.  Over the next month, members settled into a new kind of routine, one well more isolated from the outside world.  Few strayed beyond the house walls, and a new cycle of heading to the stables for meals soon became a rut.  The desire to hunt the township nearly faded completely out.  Fear, laziness, convenience?  Who could say, but the vampires within the walls were more than a little content to not have to leave the grounds to get a meal.

    Slow, Meirakat tricked news out about how the rest of the vampire race had fared through this trial.  None were spared it seemed.  The virus spread virulently across the United States into Mexico and Canada.  Some houses went completely under, not recognizing what was happening until it was much too late to save even a single member.   Other houses were down from their former numbers by as much as ninety percent.  Refugees began appearing at the house doors, once again seeking safety in numbers, hoping Meirakat and his people would be merciful.  This emigration swelled house numbers exponentially, from twenty-eight to nearly two hundred, over the course of a month.  The survivors were as varied as the people spared in his own house.  Some elder vampires and some sirelings whether new or older.

    It was obvious something needed to be done about the human population below the main levels.  Consulting with the elder vampires of both his own house and with some of the migrants, it was decided the solution was twofold.  A breeding program needed to be established and they needed to cull more from the town and possibly other nearby towns as well.   Both plans were enacted swiftly.  Meirakat was adamant not to lose stock from the humans below as they were demanded more than their body could regenerate blood.

      Between the two swelling populations, there were also plans drawn up to expand the house grounds, absorbing a lot of the town of Providence into its embrace.  The town was nearly empty of people anyway.  Those who hadn’t been culled for the vampires’ appetites had fled to “safer” locations away from the house.

    Meirakat was in the middle of discussing that very plan when a frantic vampire he barely recognized burst into the office.  He glanced up as the man skidded to a halt opposite his seat, scattering papers across the floor.

    “My Lord!” he panted.  “You’re needed in the stables!  Now!”

    Blinking and straightening at the demand, he replied, “What is it?”

    “We… we’re not sure!”

    “And you suspect?”

    “Disease among the fodder, Lord.”

    Confused and a bit perturbed, Meirakat skirted the desk.  He followed the man in silence, mulling what possibly could be the matter.  Had they packed their food too tightly into their pens?  No one had reported feeding or sanitation issues to him.

    He was led to the thickest part of the general population area.  Humans parted before them, averting their gaze, and even crying out in fear upon seeing him.  The vampire led him to a low cot, and then stepping out of the way so he could fully see the human writhing on its surface.

    The woman was flushed brightly red, sweat pouring down her face.  By the soaked sheets below her, she had been sweating this way for a while.  She was moaning incoherently, and writhing as if in pain.  Meirakat peered at her aura, noticing how dark it already was.  She was very, very ill.

    “What’s wrong with her?” he asked aloud.  “How long has she been this way?”

    It wasn’t a vampire who answered him.  “Six hours.”

    A man he hadn’t noticed upon entrance stood up, towering over him.  Only then did he recognize the man. 

    “Phillip,” he laughed, a grin turning up the corner of his mouth at how ragged and worn the man looked. Turning serious, he asked, “Can you determine what her malady is?”

    “In this shithole?”  He glanced around him.  “Not remotely.  What I do know?  She was fed from two days ago.” 

    “Everyone here has been fed from.  What does that have to do with her illness?”

    “It’s the only correlation I can think of.  Just because it has to be you people.  You put us here, packed us together like livestock.  Left us all with open puncture wounds.  What did you think was going to happen?” His derision was clear in his expression. 

    Despite he was spouting untruths in most of his statement, Meirakat chose not to argue the point. 

    “This morning she wouldn’t get up, wouldn’t eat or drink.  The fever’s been building ever since.  If it gets much higher her brain is going to fry.”

    “Is it contagious?” Meirakat added calmly.

    “Probably.”

    “I don’t want probably, human.  I want sureties.”

    “I can’t determine that here.”

    He glanced at the other vampire in his party, at the humans hemming the two of them in.  Finally he peered back over at Phillip.  “What would you need to figure it out?”

    “A full pathology lab.”

    “That can be arranged.”

    “My Lord,” the vampire hissed in his opposite ear.  “Is that wise?  I mean, isn’t this the guy who infected us?”

    He glared at the younger man.  “Who better to determine whether we have a new tragedy in the works?”

    “But.”

    He turned fully on the vampire.  “I am not stupid!  Do not presume to think that I have not weighed the scales here – do not presume to counsel me on these matters in public ever again.  He will not be left to his own devices!”

    The man cowered before him.  Meirakat ignored his apology and turned back to the human pathologist. 

    “We will get you access to the materials you require.  Remember, Phillip, this concerns your people as well as mine.  You will find out what has befallen this young woman, you will tell us if it is something we should worry about sweeping your people and if it will affect us further.  Fail in any of those things and your life is forfeit.”

    A hard expression settled into the humans face.  His jaw worked, making the cheekbones stand out.  “Why should I help you, ever, Meirakat?”

    A grin moved the corner of Meirakat’s mouth again.  “You’re not helping me so much as yourself, human.  You know that.  Your doctor’s curiosity is already pushing you to know the answers to this puzzle.”

    Once more those cheekbones jutted out.  “Fine.  Get me the lab, and I’ll figure out what this is.”

     

     

     

     

End of an Era 10
One thing I wanted to make clear was Meirakat's slowly changing attitude towards humans.  We go from a fairly amicable non-involvement to his current severe distrust of all things human.  HEH... I do hope that has been clear as this has progressed!
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    9: Counter-insurgence

     

    Meirakat’s spy, Sorsha, returned to the house just a week after her departure.  As she swept into his current office, Meirakat raised a brow at her attire.  There was scant cloth covering her skin and what was there merely teased a watcher as to what was hidden beneath.  She’d dressed to draw a different kind of attention to her presence.  He wasn’t sure he liked the idea.

    “A lady of ill repute?” he scoffed, his voice dripping disapproval.  “You were supposed to be inconspicuous.”

    “My Lord, many prostitutes frequent that area.  I found it to be a perfect cover to be loitering around the target building each night.  Believe it or not, this look didn’t even get me a passing glance.”

    His silence on the matter stretched out.  Finally, he said, “And what were you able to find?”

    “The location was accurate, My Lord.  There is a small lab on the ground floor that employs about ten.”

    “Is this Phillip with them?”

    “I caught sight of him a couple times, yes.”

    “And what else?”

    “He has a small group of armed men hanging about.  They’re housed on the second and third floors.  Several patrol the bottom floor at any given time.  The rest seem to be waiting.  From what I’ve seen, they seem to have bought into the idea that they’ve eliminated us.”

    “Were that the case, would they not have disbanded?”

    Sorsha shrugged, saying, “You’re the tactician, My Lord.  I couldn’t say.”

    “Perhaps they err on the side of caution,” he muttered.

    Sorsha remained silent on that point, but instead said, “I counted about thirty-five, lab techs and fighters.”

    “That’s it?” Heat flushed Meirakat’s cheeks.  Thirty-five felling a house of over a hundred vampires?  Even counting the men they’d already slaughtered, that only made a group of about forty-five.  Such a small number overcoming their might was mortifying.  His anger reflected when he growled, “Weapons?”

    “Nothing special, My Lord.  It’s obvious they aren’t militia or military.  No high grade weaponry at all.  I saw shotguns, semi-auto and automatic rifles, and even some hunting rifles in the mix.   No grenades, rocket launchers, bazookas or the like.  From the look of it, we’re up against a group of pissed off locals who’re trying to take a stand against a threat to their lives.”

    A grin spread on Meirkat’s face.

    She grimaced a moment later.  “However, there is one threat we need to be cautious of – silver.  I saw them loading silver powder into the shotgun shells.  Packing it around the pellets.  The rifle rounds were fitted with silver tips.”  She grimaced. “They may be untrained, but they’re dedicated to seeing us out the evolutionary door.”

    “If silver is all we have to worry about…” he trailed off as his mind worked the possibilities.  Silver didn’t kill.  It burned.  It retarded their healing ability, but unless massive amounts were introduced into a vampire’s system, exposure to the mineral was normally a recoverable wounding. “Thank you Sorsha.  Dawn is coming, you should rest.”

    “Yes, My Lord.”

    “I will ask that you periodically stop by there to keep us updated.”

    “We’re not going to hit them now?” she asked incredulously.

    He afforded her a patient smile.  “We’re not ready for that yet.  A few more weeks.”

    Though she looked ready to argue, she simply clamped her jaw shut, bowed her head, and took her leave of his office.  He watched her go, mulling her news and planning just what to do with it.  Sorsha’s news was heartening.  Their opposition was small in number and seemingly unaware of the vampire’s tiny survival party.

    When a few more had recovered.  It was very hard to be patient, but he knew rushing into this action would only end in disaster.  He needed a squad of vampires who would not be debilitated by their illness.  They needed to be able to fight, to think and react quickly to the situation.  None of them were to that point yet.

    Meirakat pushed up from his seat at the desk, happy when the world didn’t spin for once.  He’d been fighting that for so long now, that most times he just compensated automatically for the off-kilter tilt of the world around him.  Now he found he had to correct himself because the world remained upright.

    Even the rumble in his stomach was less pain and more true hunger.  He wondered if, finally, his body was recovered enough for a meal.  He could only imagine how gaunt he must look.  He could see the effects in his hands.  They were bony, thin, and decrepit looking.  His claw tips stood past their protective nail sheaths no matter how relaxed he was. 

    No wonder those around him looked ready to catch him all the time.  They seemed to think he was constantly on the verge of another collapse.  Not that any of them were much better. 

    There was a glimmer of hope, however, in those who had fallen ill before him and were now ahead of him in recovery.  Several had already resumed eating regular meals, and their appearance reflected their returning health.  He was anxious to get to that point himself.

    Perhaps…

    Changing directions, he started for the pens, determined to test his stomach.  The few remaining humans were now isolated from even one another.  The escape of so many of their fodder was vexing, to be sure, and it was frustrating to find that some of the ones they had retained, because of their violent or unpredictable nature, had died from lack of care. 

    He frowned, not sorry for the humans’ death so much as the loss of an asset, and wishing there had been someone who had been spared this dread illness who could have cared for their bank of meals.  But there was little to be done about it now.  They could only work to maintain the ones they had left.  It was crucial.  Especially if they were to keep from giving their continued survival away to the humans.

    That is, keep it secret until they were strong enough to announce their continued presence in Providence.

    With this he arrived at his destination.  Keying the lock, he let himself into the room where his night’s meal resided.  The human leapt to her feet, her eyes as round as saucers – her dark hair frizzy and flying all about her head.  She retreated under his shadow until the back wall left her nowhere else to go.

    “Meirakat,” she snarled in helplessness. “Yer supposed to be dead! They said you’d died.”

    A crooked grin cropped up on his face.  Despite the expression, anger swelled.  Who said he had died?  Did she hear that from another captive, one of his vampires, or impossibly from the outside world?  “Rumors of my demise are greatly in error.”

    “Don’t touch me!” She threw an ineffective punch, one he ducked with ease.

    “Now, now, my dear.” He toned his voice down, soothing her even as he reached into her mind.  “I’m not going to hurt you.”

    “Liar!” she protested weakly.  “You’re not… the first fanged… bastard in here.”

    “Which proves my point,” he purred feeling her resistance soften.  “You’re not hurt.”

    She struggled feebly as he laid a hand upon her shoulder.  Hunger – it was as much pleasure as pain, and his teeth quickly extended into his mouth in anticipation.  He smoothed down the woman’s hair, supporting her with his other hand.  A small grin turned up one corner of his mouth.  She was a pretty young thing.  He was reminded of…

    Elpis.

    A frown shattered the previous expression, the familiar lump in his throat rising to choke him.  Blinking, he stepped back from his meal, searching her face, telling himself it wasn’t Elpis, this human could never match his mate.  Not in looks – not in personality – not in accomplishments. 

    Elpis was dead. 

    Meirakat struck before he could think any further, burying the falling tears in the woman’s hair as he buried his fangs into her neck.  He tried to plow over the surge of emotions with the high of a feeding, but it was only partially successful.

    His mate’s body still lay where she was felled.  His beautiful, capable mate, rotting like weeks’ old garbage.

    He gnawed harder, hearing the distant grunt of pain from his subdued meal.

    All of the bodies – his friends – his family – still stunk up the hallways and rooms and the main hall. 

    When he released the woman under his fangs, he managed not to just drop her weakened body.  He lowered it to the floor, but made no more effort to make her comfortable or make her recovery from his attention easier.

    Turning away, Meirakat stormed back out.

    Despite the logic of staying hidden, he was angry he couldn’t care for the needs of the dead.  He was unable to clear the halls of the rot and the stench.  The reminders of the pain the humans inflicted on his clan were plain to see any time he visited those floors.

    Clenching his jaw, he wished for the strength to hit the humans back, eliminate their threat so he could honor the fallen properly.

    In his anger, he didn’t even notice when the hunger eased and strength seeped back into his frame. 

     

    ******

     

    Twelve of the twenty-seven remaining vampires had volunteered to be a part of the insurgent team.  They were now positioned around the building.  Sorsha’s intelligence held true.  It was obvious by the lazy way the patrols were working the property, they felt the threat to be eliminated.  He glanced at his spy, crouched at his right hip, and she grimly smiled and nodded.

    While Meirakat didn’t expect much resistance, he readied himself for a battle just in case.  He would not be lulled into complacency just because these were local men and women.  Beings, human or otherwise, fought hardest to protect their homes.  Perhaps they were untrained, but their tenacity could make up for any lack of formal skill.

    At his side was an ancient sword, one he’d gleaned off a Mycenaean co-combatant during one of the many Trojan skirmishes.  He’d kept it as a reminder – well of many things, including the good old days of combat.  Others in his squad held more modern weapons, and while he had been known in several of the more modern wars to carry projectile weaponry, he didn’t feel this skirmish would warrant such firepower.  Besides, his target wasn’t a warrior…

    Meirakat peered above him, seeing the crouched shadows on the fire escapes above, or clinging to the walls above the windows like flies.  They all awaited his word.  Soft reports were drifting into his ear through the miniature earpiece.

    “Now,” he hissed, disseminating his order through the airwaves.

    Twelve moved as one, shattering windows or ducking in through already open doors.  The surprise was complete as shouts arose, around and above him.  His contingent laid fighters low quickly.  Guns lit off, barking in different tones depending upon the caliber, as friend and foe alike began a firefight.

    Meirakat strode down the middle of the room, heading for the knot of scientists who bunched up at the far end of the floor.  Several of them, including the man in charge of the vampire genocide, dove for weapons.  Meirakat drew his sword halfway across the floor, taking his time.  He knew what he was doing, and wasn’t sure his opposition did.

    Though they aimed at him, only one fired.  Meirakat did it again – without thought – he found himself a foot to the right without ever making the step.  He could smell it now, the scent of his newfound ability, almost like sulfur.  The bullet intended for his chest whizzed harmlessly by.  Again he was fired upon, this time all three finding the courage to pull triggers.  Meirakat simply leaned forward, bending space, and coming out again behind the three.  The sword came around, cleaving the man on the left in half through the waist.  His guts spilled with a slopping sound onto the tile, blood spattered equipment, all before the two halves thumped lifelessly to the floor.  Spinning, Meirakat looped the blade over his head and came down on the second man’s shoulder, lopping off his gun arm with little effort.  The man went down screaming, trying desperately to staunch the bleeding.

    Two down before Phillip could even gather his wits.  By the time the man spun to face him, Meirakat was already reaching in.  He simply closed a hand on his throat and lifted him by the grip off the ground.  He spared one glance behind him, to ensure none of the other scientists were going to attempt an attack, and then focused on the mastermind.

    “Hello, Phillip,” he growled.  He was a tall man, six foot, perhaps six two, and the man’s toes scrapped the floor as he tried desperately to find purchase.

    He could feel the man’s Adam’s apple working against his palm – could feel the racing of his heart through the beat against his clenched fingers.  The man had abandoned his gun, trying instead to loosen Meirakat’s grip with both hands.  The effort was ineffectual.  Still he continued to struggle.

    “I think you know why I’m here, Phillip.”

    While his eyes were still wide with shock, anger was starting to seep in.  Slowly his struggle ceased and he glared at Meirakat with contempt.

    “Vampire!” he spit. “Go ahead and kill me, you psychotic son of a bitch!  You might as well!  I can’t be a meal for you!  I’m infected.  I’m a carrier, you bastard!”

    Meirakat tilted his head to one side. “Infected, eh?  Is that what you think will stop me from sucking you dry?  Tell me – what does that matter anymore?  We have all been infected.  We have all suffered – many of us came to death.  But some survive.  We survived your disease.  As a scientist, you should anticipate survivors.  No plague ever to sweep the world has ever claimed all lives.” 

    The man swallowed.

    “Wait, you did plan for it.  Your little death squads.  How many would still be with us, if you hadn’t had them all shot in the face while they suffered?”  He glanced away, whispering, “Oh, my Elpis was one of those casualties.”

    His expression hardened as he regarded the human once again.

    “You carrying doesn’t worry me anymore.”

    Phillip became stone still as the words sank in. “Wh… wait.”

    “Death.” He grinned maliciously.  “That would be the easy way out for you.  I’m not extending you that courtesy.  You have taken our family, destroyed our health and our home.  No… you deserve to be paid in kind – to suffer as we all have.  A blood meal – a blood slave, yes, that is the fate best suited for your crime.”

    He tossed the human to Cummings. 

    “Take the survivors back to the pens.”

    “No!” Phillip cried.  “You can’t do this!”

    He wheeled on the human. “I can’t?  You filii meretricum, what makes you think not?”

    Whatever words he intended to counter with froze in his throat.

    Meirakat peered up at Cummings.  “Take him away.”  He took three steps into the slaughter and peered about for some moments.  He wheeled once again, this time to bark an order to the others in his squad.  “Burn the place.”

    He strode back into the fresher air of the night, not looking back as flames began lighting the neighboring buildings.

    “Now, perhaps, my love,” he whispered, “we can find closure.”

End of an Era 9
Ah fuggedaboudit.... I'm going to post all of EoaE today and call it good!  :)

That way I can maybe take my time getting Seeds of Truth (this story's sequel) threaded out properly!
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ArunaWolf Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank You so much for the watch Free Baymax Icon 
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Tigershark06 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're welcome!
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autumnicity Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2015  Student General Artist
Thank you for the watch! I really appreciate your support. :heart:
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Tigershark06 Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You truly very welcome! :D
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crimson-nemesis Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Happy (belated) Birthday! :iconcheerplz:

sorry for being late :( had a alot on my plate these days ^^;
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