Blood and Curses
Vampires: the New Age, Prequel #1
Vampires: The New Age, Prequel #1
Published by Wittegen Press
Wittegen Press Giveaway Games 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Artwork by Natasha Duncan-Drake
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Titles in "Vampires: the New Age"
(In reading order)
Blood Sacrifice: The Avebury Legacy (Vampires: The New Age #1)
The Beginning: Blood and Curses (Vampires: The New Age, Prequel #1)
Link to series webpage:
I wish to thank the following people for helping me create this book:
Pose reference for cover - SenshiStock at DeviantArt.com
This story was originally part of the Wittegen Press Giveaway Games 2012 and has been previously published in the following anthologies:
Myriad Imaginings: All The Stories From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
Half Of Everything: Stories By Natasha Duncan-Drake From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
Bright Young Things: The Young Adult Stories From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
The Beginning was originally published in two sections on 30th and 31st July 2012 as part of the Wittegen Press Giveaway Games 2012.
This is a prequel to my novel Blood Sacrifice - The Avebury Legacy. Blood Sacrifice is a new adult, dark fantasy novel and leaps in at the point the action starts, but there are events mentioned within that are important to the setup of the plot, but which are never fully disclosed. These are some of them.
This short is the story of how Nate, my main protagonist, and Lexie, my second protagonist met. It's action filled and a little bit bloody, just like the novel, so I hope you enjoy reading it. The vampires here do not sparkle and they are nasty pieces of work.
Glancing at the sky, Nate noted the rose pink hints at the far horizon and smiled to himself. He had timed it perfectly: dawn was coming and his quarry would lead him straight to the lair. He'd been searching out the area for two days and he was finally sure of his facts. The kill was not going to be easy, but not the hardest he had taken on either.
Checking the hilt of his sword one more time and gripping the shaft of his crossbow, he began to move forward again. The vampires had a fresh kill with them, so he wasn't worried he would be spotted. When it came to blood, vampires were very one track. It was about the only advantage a human being had over one of the undead. That didn't stop Nate being very careful about where he put his feet, however.
Nate was still alive because he was careful. He worked alone because the way all hunters weren't as fastidious made him nervous. All it took was one weak link in a team and it could be the end of the whole group. Nearly being killed had taught him that the solo life was much more to his liking. Of course he had no backup, but that just meant he had to be better prepared. When Macintyre had called him with this job he'd jumped at it. This was a small, tightly controlled group of vampires, perfect for a single hunter. If he could just get the alpha the others would be easily picked off.
He'd been scouting the area for a few days and he was just about sure there was one alpha and two spawn. Once they led him to their lair he could wait for sunrise and then take them out. Depending on where they were hiding he could go back to his truck and pick up other equipment, but the crossbow and the sword were good for all terrain.
After waiting a few moments for the vampires to move further ahead, he set off in pursuit again and caught movement off to the side. He froze and lifted the crossbow. He wasn't usually wrong, but if there was another spawn in the area he did not want to meet it now. What he really did not need was another human being to step out of the bushes a little further up and crouch down.
Nate really didn't believe what he was seeing. The girl, because she couldn't have been more than twenty or so, didn't even appear to be armed and yet she clearly knew there was danger up ahead. At least she was dressed for the part in dark jeans and a dark shirt, but other than that she appeared totally unprepared. She didn't so much as look round as he crept up on her.
"Don't move," he said very quietly and touched her back with the blunt side of his blade.
"Wasn't planning on it," she replied so calmly that he had to conclude she had known he was there.
"Turn around," he ordered, since he was not about to take any chances.
Some vampires could look pretty human until you stared them in the face.
As the girl did as she was told, Nate realised his estimate of her age had been on the high side. He was undoubtedly looking at a teenager. She was slight and not really very tall and she had an almost delicate look about her. However, Nate also gained the impression that going by looks would be a mistake.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Same as you," she replied, "trailing the vampires."
"They'd eat you for breakfast," he said, simply because he couldn't imagine this girl standing up to a pack of bloodsuckers for more than a couple of minutes.
"Probably," she replied, "but I wasn't planning on attacking them head on."
At least she wasn't stupid.
"I'm Lexie, who are you?" She held out her hand as she spoke.
Nate did not take it.
"Why do you care?"
The vampire hunting game was not exactly a sharing kind of profession.
"Because you need my help," she said simply.
He almost laughed, it was a close thing.
"Look, Lexie," he said, unimpressed, "I'm a professional; amateurs get killed in this game."
"I've killed three vampires," she replied and looked him right in the eye as she did so.
He could not detect a lie.
"I'm not trying to take your money," she said, "but you'll need my help."
"You think you're a hunter?"
Lexie seemed to know how it worked, but he still couldn't believe she had ever gone up against vampires and won.
"Not exactly," she replied, "I'm a witch. I'm drawn to bad magic and there's bad magic in this group."
"Bad magic?" he didn't bother to hide the scepticism in his voice.
In his experience a good blade was worth a hell of a lot more than magic. Charms and protection were no good when faced with a pissed off vampire.
"One of them is a witch as well," Lexie told him in a perfectly rational tone.
"Vampires don't do magic," he replied, wondering if he'd found someone slightly short of full deck; "they're only interested in blood and death."
"Mostly," she agreed, "they can't use the natural powers, but blood magic can be very powerful."
"I've been watching these three for three nights," he replied, "there was no sign of anything unusual."
"There are four of them," Lexie said, "the fourth is the witch and he stays in the cabin."
Nate wasn't sure what to believe. Lexie sounded like she believed what she was saying and the facts she was throwing in all added up.
"If he stays in the cabin, how can you be sure it's a he and he's a witch?"
The fact that Lexie seemed to know more than he did, because he'd known the vampires were holed up somewhere vaguely civilised by their appearance, but he hadn't known it was a cabin, made him a little bit snarky.
"I can feel his power," Lexie said.
"But that would make him the alpha," he countered, "and I've seen the alpha."
"He's not the alpha," Lexie told him with total confidence, "he's something in between alpha and spawn. It's because of the magic."
"There's no such thing."
"Why not? If left alone a spawn will eventually become an alpha, why shouldn't there be one caught in between the two states?"
"Because I've been doing this a while and I know a lot of hunters and no one has ever mentioned one."
"Magic can preserve," Lexie insisted, "and I know what I feel. I've been here a week, I was the one who put the call in."
Now that was a surprise. Macintyre had mentioned that this job had come from someone in the know rather than an alert from police reports with a common theme, but he had assumed the reporter would have been long gone.
"I only realised you were here last night and I tried to talk to you," Lexie added, "but you disappeared, so I decided to wait somewhere obvious for you tonight."
Rubbing his temple with one hand, Nate finally put his sword down with the other. Lexie sounded too sane to be a complete wacko.
"What is it you think you can do?" he asked. "You have no weapons."
"I have a crossbow," she replied, "but I stashed it so you wouldn't avoid me."
"So you do know how to hunt properly."
"Not really," she said, "I don't go out of my way to find vampires. The three I've killed have been necessity, but I can shoot straight if that's what you're asking. You'll need me for magic; the thing in the cabin is powerful."
"Powerful magic requires ritual."
"Usually," Lexie agreed.
"So if I take them by surprise, no ritual."
"Why do you think he hasn't left the cabin?"
Nate hadn't thought of that.
"So you're saying he's been preparing something all this time?"
"All I know is it's something to do with increasing power," Lexie replied; "I can feel that much, but I don't know how. Blood magic of this type usually involves a sacrifice."
"They took a kill back tonight."
Lexie shook her head.
"The sacrifice would have to be alive in the ritual area," she said. "He might still be preparing, building his strength."
All the what-ifs and maybes were not helping settle Nate's mind. He had an urge just to turn his back and leave. He wouldn't get paid, but the more he heard the more he didn't like the situation at all. This was more a job for a team.
"If I said we should leave and call in a team, what would you say?" he asked, suspecting the answer.
"Then I'll wait for them, but they might be too late."
With some difficulty, Nate managed not to sigh loudly. He knew it would take Macintyre a couple of days to get a team to agree and then get them to the site. The vampires could have moved on by then and they could have killed several more people. Nate did not want to leave, but he needed to rethink.
"Come on," he said, "get your gear. We need to compare notes and come up with a plan. You know where their den is and we can come back when the sun is high."
Lexie considered that for a moment and finally nodded.
"Okay," he said after leading her back to his truck, "tell me everything you know."
"The four are holed up in a survivalist's cabin," Lexie began to explain and accepted one of the sandwiches he pulled from the cooler in the back. "The two spawn are the couple who used to own the cabin. They'd only just been turned when I first saw them. I think the alpha and the witch treat their spawn as disposable commodities."
Nate nodded, that would make sense and would indicate a younger alpha. Older alphas tended to keep larger groups with consistent members because they had more power and hence finer control. Younger alpha's killed spawn before they could settle into the vampire way of being and get out of control. It made the groups easier to kill, because the spawn were nothing but automata, so killing the alpha ended all resistance. Of course killing the alpha was never easy.
"They've brought back food every night, all human," Lexie continued, "and the magic keeps building."
Whether the magic was a serious threat or not, it sounded as if the vampires were well fed and that meant strong. Vampires could survive on one decent meal in a month, but that would have left them weak. To be active they needed one every two or three nights and one every day meant they had to be preparing for something. It was dangerous to hunt every night, it upped the chance of being noticed and vampires were masters of not being noticed.
The fact that all the kills were human was also worrying. Vampires were quite capable of surviving on animal blood. Their current behaviour pattern was either a sign of arrogance or a sign they needed to be at their very strongest. With all factors included, Nate suspected the second.
He was mulling over the likelihood of dying when Lexie suddenly dropped the sandwich she was nibbling on and shuddered from head to foot.
"Hey, you okay?" he asked, not sure what the hell was going on.
Lexie's eyes were squeezed shut and she was hugging herself and trembling.
"Lexie," he said more urgently, reaching over to put a hand on her arm.
When she opened her eyes he backpedalled so fast be hit the driver's side door and he had every intention of getting out of the truck. It was a testament to how shocked he was that it took him several seconds to find the handle. He all but fell out and then grabbed for where he had stowed his sword.
Lexie's eyes were completely red; the shiny blood red of spawn.
Once outside, sword in hand he slammed the door shut and backed away. Dawn was well on the way now, but full sun was a little while off yet, so he stood, on the defensive waiting for the attack. He could not fathom what was going on, because Lexie had not sounded like spawn, but she sure as hell looked the part.
Her head was down now; he could see her through the windshield, and she wasn't moving. As light crept over the trees and onto the back road where he had parked, he slowly worked his way round to Lexie's side of the truck. Holding his sword out in front of him he carefully reached for the door handle. If he could get her into the open, full daylight would deal with her. With a flick of his wrist he had the door open and then he backed off again.
Lexie did not move.
Waiting was something Nate was good at; rushing in was the sort of thing that ended up with hunters dead. The sky was continually becoming lighter, which was an advantage to him; he just hoped it wasn't going to make a mess of his truck. The dawn was almost over and the day was nearly there, but he kept his sword at the ready.
Only when sunlight finally hit the front seat of the truck did Lexie actually move. Very slowly she lifted her head and blinked and her eyes were back to normal. Nate was not fooled; he'd met other vampires who did a very good impression of human and it meant Lexie was an alpha. When the sunlight hit her skin she would begin to burn, but until then she was very, very dangerous.
To his shock, however, she did not shrink back from the light. In fact she very slowly began to climb out of the open door into the full morning sun. Nate backed off, but one thing was very clear; Lexie was not burning. He was beginning to think he was in very big trouble.
"I'm not a vampire," said in quiet, calm tones was not what he was expecting to happen next.
"I saw your eyes," he replied.
"I am infected," Lexie said, "I have been for a year, but I use magic to stop myself becoming one of them."
"That's impossible," he said and realised that that was the second time he'd said something like that when talking to Lexie.
"I'm standing in full sunlight," Lexie said, "and my eyes are back to normal. How else do you explain that? The witch up there completed part of whatever he's trying to do, I felt it, that's why I changed. I'm fine again now."
"You're not fine, you're infected," he snapped back.
"And have been for a year," Lexie insisted. "I'm a witch, I know a lot of magic. I use an ancient ritual to purify myself regularly; it stops the infection from increasing."
"Why are you here?" he demanded.
"For exactly the reason I told you," she replied. "I can feel the magic and I want to stop it."
"But why? You're one of them."
"I am not," she said and for the first time lost her cool. "I am a white witch and I want to stop the vampires as much as you do."
The thing was, Nate prided himself on his bullshit metre and he wasn't getting that feeling from Lexie at all. She was infected and, hence, compromised, but she believed what she was saying.
"How did you survive the initial bite?" he needed more details.
"I realised what was happening and I fought her off with a light spell and a lucky shot with a stiletto."
"I guess you mean the shoe not the knife?"
"A transvestite friend had left one of his reinforced heels in the tent."
Nate decided he really didn't want to know.
"Give me one good reason why I should let you live," because that's what it came down to.
Those who were infected were better off dead, that was the basic rule of hunting. He was not sure if he believed Lexie or if she was a decoy to distract him and asking was the best he could do. If she had been another hunter compromised on a team hunt, she would have been dead already.
As he watched, Lexie closed her eyes and placed her hands over her heart. She was whispering something under her breath and, under his gaze, her hands began to glow. When she opened her eyes again they had a faraway look in them and she slowly lifted her hands until they were palm up. There was a small white glowing ball in her palm and Nate could not see any way she could be faking it. She dipped her head and gently blew on her palm and the white globe floated off her palm and straight towards him.
It hovered in front of him for a while and he wasn't sure what it was supposed to prove. Only as it suddenly shot towards him like a bullet did he think treachery. It hit him in the centre of the chest and he almost dropped his sword as he tingled from head to foot. If an attack was coming he would have expected it then, but nothing else happened and he looked at Lexie, confused.
"That is my life essence," she said, dropping her hands to her side, "am I evil?"
For several seconds Nate didn't know what to say. He felt warm and relaxed and about as far from vampire as he could imagine being.
"No," he eventually decided and lowered his sword.
Lexie smiled at him.
Thank you very much for reading this sample. If you enjoyed it, you can find the full book at many of the major eBook retailers. Please click the link for more information:
Blood Sacrifice: The Avebury Legacy (Vampires: the New Age #1)
Nate was hunting a vampire when he first bumped into Lexie, a witch infected by a vampire bite. When Lexie used blood magic to save him from certain death, she passed on the infection to Nate. For a time Lexieís magic has been able to keep them both partially human as they continue to protect ignorant humanity from the vampire threat, but that magic is now starting to fail.
There are legends that the ancient Avebury ritual designed to destroy Morigan of Leyland, the most powerful vampire ever known, may hold the key to the cure they need, but to perform it Nate and Lexie require the four relics from the original ritual. Enlisting the help of veteran hunter, Brian Hawker, who has his own reasons for finding the relics, they must search across continents before it is too late.
In their way are vampire nuns, a crystal cave, shape changers, a labyrinthine catacomb, mummified monks and even librarians. However, their greatest foe is Dahlia, undead sister of Morigan, who will stop at nothing to retrieve the relics for herself and to claim Moriganís power. If Dahlia reaches any of the relics before them, Nate and Lexie face a fate worse than death, losing their humanity to the blood lust.
About Wittegen Press:
Wittegen Press is a small independent publisher of eBooks based in the UK. We publish on many eBook sites. To see our whole catalogue please visit our website.
Tasha was born and raised in rural Kent, England where she still lives with her husband Rob, just down the road from her twin sister and sometimes writing partner Sophie. Tasha has been writing since she was a pre-teen and chose to take it up as a full time career when her company downsized and made the whole software engineering department redundant. After setting up Wittegen Press with her sister as a brand for their books she has not looked back, publishing novels, novellas and short stories in a wide range of genres.
Before taking up writing professionally she was very active in the world of fanfiction and still believes it is a wonderful creative outlet, even though she doesn't have very much time to play anymore. She likes to maintain a lively presence online and welcomes new friends, readers and writers alike.
For more information about Tasha's books and where to find her at places like Twitter, please check out her profile at Wittegen Press, linked below.