The young were easier to hunt. They may be faster and far stronger than those of age, but they were also easier to outwit. Their instincts blinded them, the bloodlust searing in their minds causing them think of nothing but their next catch, their next feed. It consumed them, that all powerful need for blood leaving them unable to deny their thirst when presented with a mortal. That was when I would make my move, when they would lurch forward, teeth bared in anticipation of the feed. Drawn to me by the sweet smell of blood running hot through my veins they would come to me, but their fight was not focused and they would quickly loose, my blade wounding if not killing them on the first strike.
Those who have spent a few years as one of the dammed were harder to catch. They not only had control of their faculties but wouldn’t falter just because blood had been shed. They were harder to deceive, more effort being put in the fight then the pursuit.
This one was somewhere in between.
I had chased him through the damp alleys, climbed up chimney pipes, even leapt from roof top to roof top behind him as he attempted to elude me. More than once he had turned and hissed his surprise to see me still behind him. But he would not escape, not from me. This is what I lived my life for.
I was one of the elite hunters of the night, a select group of specially trained killers that had the sense to believe the stories of what truly lurked in the shadows. Together we worked to rid the cites and towns of their malevolence, each of us for our own reasons. Some for righteousness, others to protect those they cared for, a few simply because of the excitement the hunt brought with it. Myself, I fought for vengeance.
It was one of those filthy bastards who stole my sister not a decade ago.
Mother and father were late returning from the village, leaving my elder sister to tend to me and our infant brother while they traded and sold our harvest for what were needed to live through the winter. Our parents had heard the stories of the demons lurking in the shadows when we settled on this land, but as God fearing people they did not believe them. They didn’t believe in the beasts that came in the night, killing livestock and stealing the lives of children. So of course they thought nothing of it to leave us alone.
Nearly a woman herself at sixteen years of age our parents had left us to her care often, and she did well by us, treating us with care and love as a mother would and not a sister. She would have made a wonderful mother herself, but that night that future was stolen from her.
It was well past dusk and Angie had begun lighting the oil lamps, filling the house with light to make it easier for mother and father to find as it was a moonless night. But then something startled the sheep, the sounds of their mews reverberating through our modest home as they fled in panic. Angie had ordered me to stay in the house as she wrapped her shawl around her shoulders, telling me to watch after our brother as she walked out into the crisp fall night, one of the lanterns in hand.
We had been having some trouble with wild dogs and she thought she would shoo them away, keeping them from stealing another of our heard and as such our livelihood. I stood in the doorway, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders and covering my sleeping brother as I cradled him in my ten year old arms, watching as Angie made her way to the small shelter built for the sheep.
I remember cringing seeing one of the dead ewes in the lamplight, its throat was opened but there was no blood save what was already matted in its wool. It seemed wrong to me even then, that whatever attacked the sheep had left it there to rot rather than taking it for its meat. That’s when I saw the man for the first time, a man I had seen more than once about town. He was the inn keeper, the man who saw to the travelers who happened to pass through our village. But that night he didn’t look like the kind man who offered me sweets whenever we crossed paths, that night he was hellish. His clothes were dirty; his white shirt dark with blood. His long hair had escaped its bow and was wild about his face. A face that shone with excitement as blood red eyes fixed on what was in my arms.
“Give me the infant,” he had hissed at me, showing me the fangs I had never seen before.
I clutched my brother tighter to my chest, turning him away from the man.
“Give him to me or you too will die tonight child,” he spoke as he neared me. Again, it wasn’t the joyful tone I was used to but filled with rage, hatred…need.
I stepped backwards and back under the protection of the house, one hand holding my brother the other ready to close us behind the door. But I stopped remembering about Angie who was still by the sheep’s pen. She hadn’t noticed the man nor he her, he was too fixed on his prize.
“Angie!” I had cried and she shot around, her eyes going wide.
The man turned at her hushed gasp, his gaze now torn between my brother and I and Angie. But it took him only a moment to decide which he wanted more, “innocence is always the sweeter treat, youth its sugar,” he purred and began towards me again.
“No,” Angie shouted, “leave them be!”
Again the man turned to her, his eyes no longer expectant but angered. Realizing now what was standing before her she went pale for just a moment. But her fear was short lived and she straightened her back, her face filled with determination before she did the unthinkable.
“Take me instead,” she told the man, her voice steady, unwavering.
The man laughed at her offer, a cold cackle that chilled the already cool night, “you do not have what I want, go,” he waved her off, “go or I will kill you simply for getting in my way.”
She took a step forward as if to follow the man as he turned from her, “you want blood do you not?”
He gave her malevolent grin, “ah, so you are aware of what I am, aren’t you child?”
She nodded to him in a quick jerky movement, “I am. But I also know that my siblings will not satisfy you.”
Again he laughed, “Do you now, and why is this?”
Now she had his full attention and he began at a casual gait towards her.
Even in the dim light I could see it as she swallowed deeply, knowing what would become of her if he accepted her offer, “they are small,” she began, watching carefully as the man walked around her, appraised her of her value, “they will not sate your need.”
“And what do you know of my needs?” he purred as he took the lantern from her, placing it gently on the ground in front of her.
“I know of the hunger inside you, a hunger they will not fulfill.” She kept her chin high, kept her neck exposed to temp him into taking her.
He took the invitation but he did not strike, instead he brushed her golden hair aside and leaned in slowly, his eyes closing as he took a deep breath, “and do you know of my other needs, know what will become of you and your…innocence if I do indeed choose to take you?”
Her affirmation was merely a breath on the air, “yes,” she whispered quietly, her own eyes closing as she began to tremble.
“Angie no!” I cried but my voice broke, the tears I hadn’t realized had begun to fall catching my words in my throat.
The man took one last look at me where I was frozen in the doorway, unable to move, unable to help, unable to save my sister from the vampire.
“Then it is done,” he said sharply, grasping Angie brutally by the back of her neck, his eyes locked with mine, “remember this night child, remember how your sister died to save your life.”
And then like that he was gone. There was nothing left in the yard but the lamp, its warm light unable to break through the chill wrapping around me.
It was there my parents found me, still standing in the doorway, my brother still sleeping in my arms, unknowing of the fate that had almost fallen upon him that night. They were hysterical over their lost child, and when I told them what I had seen they had beaten me, told me not to make up lies. It couldn’t have been the inn keeper they told me, that they had seen him in his shop just before they left the village and he couldn’t have made it before them.
No one ever believed me. And when I could bare the stares and the hushed whispers in my presence no more, when I was of an acceptable age to leave home, I did. I left my family and the village behind, a village that would protect a vampire before believing the word of a child.
But it wasn’t all for naught. I spent the rest of my days in that village watching the man, learning the sights and patterns of his ways. I learned what it was to be a vampire, knew they could not stand the high sun, that gaze that said they were measuring their next victim, those small inflections that set him apart from the humans he surrounded himself with.
I learned and then I hunted.
He was just my first of many vampires I killed before I found Luke and his clan of hunters. Men who believed me when I told them what had taken my sister, men who hunted the same demons as I did through the night. It was they who found me, standing over the headless body of a vampire some years ago. They had been tracking the same vampire for a fortnight but I had managed to do what they could only hours after arriving in that village. So they welcomed me in, gave me back the family I had lost, gave me a purpose.
They never did recover my sister’s body. I prayed everyday that I would not meet her in my travels, prayed that filthy animal did not take my beautiful sister and make her one of the dammed as well. Because then I would have to kill her and that, in turn, would kill me because it was for her that I did what I did. She was the driving force behind me, the reason for my hunt, the reason why I chased prey through the night such as this one. And I would not rest until each and every vampire paid for what the inn keeper had taken from me. Not just my sister but my family, it was because of him that they turned their backs on me. To my parents they hadn’t just lost one child that night but two.
Killing vampires was all I lived for now.