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Shadows Beneath

PROLOGUE: FULL CIRCLE

Trevor hunkered down behind a stack of packing crates, scooting against the wall as far as he could go to keep in the shadows. As softly and silently as he could, he slid the spent clip from his pistol, and set it on the ground next to him. He carefully removed a full clip from his belt, shoved it into the gun, and slowly pulled back on the weapon, snapping the top back into place.

No sooner had he finished, when three shadows glided from the adjoining room. They sniffed the air carefully for a moment, and muttered something unintelligible in German to eachother. One of them passed by a window, revealing his pale, gaunt features, which seemed to glow in the moonlight. Trevor scowled, and poked his head out from behind the crate for a moment to get a better look. Not only were they vampires, they were eastern European vampires, which meant they had their own code of honor and brutality that American vampires did not. It was strange, thinking of undead culture at a time like this, Trevor chided himself.

Keep your goddamn head on your shoulders, he mentally scolded as he reached for the spent clip on the ground. Thrown across the room, it would make an excellent distraction as he jumped up and-

What I’ve felt, what I’ve known, never shined through in what I’ve shown.

Trevor nearly jumped out of his boots when he heard the music start to play. Metallica shattered the perfect silence like a stone breaking apart a church window. And it was coming from his phone. The very same phone he had forgot to turn off before entering the vampire’s nest.

Never free, never me…so I dub thee…

“Get him! Don’t let him get away!” one of the vampires shouted in broken English.

…Unforgiven…

“Goddamn stupid Metallica!” Trevor shouted, diving backwards as a vampire claw tore through the crate he was hiding behind like it was made of tissue paper. The hunter continued backwards, plowing through a patch of thin drywall, and stumbling through the bathroom the hole connected to. Fine place for a nest, he grouched-freaking son of a bitch vampires in the fucking ghetto! Vampires and Harlem were two things Trevor simply could not stand, so having the two together was just a big fat bag of flaming shit in his face to him.

He ran out of the bathroom, out the small apartment, and into the second floor hallway, where he got half a second to answer his phone. “Hello? Who the fuck is this?! It had better be good!”

Trevor? What’s wrong? What happened?

Trevor sighed, and rolled his eyes. It figures it’d be Autumn. She had an uncanny knack for causing him trouble at just the wrong moment. “Nothin`,” he said, his voice turning calm. “What’s up?”

Well, I’m all moved in, and my first day at the university is in about a week. I thought I’d invite you to the big school-warming party the school welcoming committee is throwing.

The door behind Trevor exploded in a shower of splinters, forcing the hunter to move further down the hall. A very angry vampire kicked what little remained of the door down, and started advancing down the hall towards him. “Big party, huh? I didn’t think they did that in London. Isn’t it all tea and big fur hats over there?”

Autumn laughed. Believe it or not, no. This should get you interested-Forsaken is going to be playing at the club we’re going to! I know those are your two great loves; liquor and loud music.

“What, so I’m an annoying alcoholic now?” Trevor asked, smiling a bit, despite the vampire closing in on him. “`Scuse me for a minute, Kris.”

Trevor raised his gun as the vampire lunged, and emptied an even six bullets into the monster’s face. The vampire fell at Trevor’s feet, howling in pain as the silver-jacketed bullets made his blood boil, and burned away at his skin. Trevor methodically removed a wooden stake from inside his jacket, knelt down, and drove the oak steak into the vampire’s chest. The undead let out a blood-curdling shriek, and twitched for a minute before finally coming to rest.

What on earth was that?

“Big damn cockroach,” Trevor muttered into the phone. That scream would probably draw the others before too long. Where the hell was his back-up when he needed it?

I didn’t catch you at a bad time, did I?

Trevor shrugged, and backed out of the hallway, towards the stairs. “You could say that. So Forsaken is gonna be there, huh?” It wasn’t his favorite band just by chance-Arc Windstone, the drummer, was an old friend of his. Of course, Kris might just have a heart attack if she found out, which is why Trevor never told her. Or maybe it was because he just liked teasing her, and always having Forsaken just barely out of reach.

I’m sorry. I forgot the time difference between London and New York.

“Naah, don’t worry about it,” Trevor mused as he backed closer to the stairwell door. “I’ll call you back when I’m done here, okay?”

Be careful, Trevor! I don’t want you showing up here in a casket or anything!

Trevor looked back down the hall. The second bloodsucker was coming at him full-speed, which, for a vampire, was pretty damn fast. Without batting an eyelash, Trevor reached for the door, and pulled it open as the vampire got close. Unable to stop, the monster crashed into the door face-first hard enough to put a dent in it. Trevor switched his phone to his other hand, and pressed the door back in, squeezing the vampire between the door and the doorframe. Trapped and stunned, it was an easy matter to drive a stake through its heart, killing it instantly.

“I don’t think that’ll be a problem.” He smiled grimly as he pulled his stake from the vampire’s chest, and let the body slump down to the floor. “I’ll see you in about a week, then. Take care, Kris.” Trevor put his phone away, making sure he turned it off this time. A second mess like that was the last thing he needed tonight.

A second shadow down the hallway caught the hunter’s attention. His gun was out in a flash, pointed at the darkness.

“Trevor! Please, tell me that is you!” a thick German accent shouted from the shadows.

Trevor sighed again, and lowered his gun a bit. “Yeah, it’s just me. Stop creepin` around like that and get out here, Richter.” The shadows parted a bit as another man stepped into the dim light, carrying an automatic rifle in his hands, along with a two-foot iron cross slung across his back. “I nearly plugged you, you dumbass. Where the hell were you back there?”

Richter smiled, and let his rifle hang from its shoulder strap. “I apologize, Trevor. I thought I sensed a normal soul nearby, so I ran to investigate. Sadly, I was too late, and a resident of this building was dead before I could reach them.”

“There are no ‘residents’ here,” Trevor snapped. “Just squatters and crackheads. The bastard probably had it coming to him.”

“I find it sad, how a Morris can think he has the right to mete out death and life, based on his own prejudices,” Richter replied, his smile quickly vanishing. “Our family has sworn to protect all life, regardless of sin and reason. Do you remember? Surely Simon told you of this?”

“Shut up! Just shut the hell up! I don’t need a goddamned lecture from you on how to do my job, Richter!” Trevor shouted. “Maybe you do things different in Austria, and maybe everybody there is all love and peace and bullshit like that, but not here! This is kill or be killed here in the big city, so you’d better get used to it and grow a thick skin, because I don’t have time for your whiney bleeding-heart shitfest!”

The second Morris pursed his lips in thought, and slowly nodded. “Your mission is a sad tragedy, my cousin. Some day, I hope to bring you to my home, so you can see how precious life can be.”

“Yeah, that’d be a real kick,” Trevor groused, pulling a second gun from its holster and loading a bullet into the chamber. “Come on, we’ve still got one more of these shitheels to clear out before we can call it a night. It’s only an hour before last call at my favorite place, so let’s get the lead out. Unless you’d rather go preach to the poor outside.”

Richter chuckled, and removed the iron cross from his back. A small trigger near the top sent the two arms of the cross sliding away, revealing an ornate, gilded crossguard. The long bottom of the crucifix slid away, revealing a long, slender blade. Its polished silver surface gave off a ghostly light, even in the dim corridors of the abandoned building. “Schattenkerl is anxious to deliver justice,” Richter said, his smile turning almost wicked. “Lead the way, Trevor.”

* * * * * * * * * *

“This next piece, as you can see, has been badly damaged by what forensic experts claim to be an extremely intense fire. Trace elements show that the item is composed of pure silver, which, as many of you know, has a higher melting point than most other precious metals, such as gold.” Rachel turned to the projection shining on the large canvas screen. A crumpled shape that looked like it had once been a cross was spread to nearly twenty feet tall across the screen, when in reality, it was barely four inches long. “Experts have come to the conclusion that the accident occurred only over a century ago, but the item itself was carried in each of the Crusades by one of King Richard’s knights, Sir Richter Morris.”

In the audience, a hand slowly rose above the crowd. “Miss Masika? I’ve heard rumors that some of these items were used in occult rituals and ceremonies a long time ago, and that several of the artifacts in this museum were connected to the unusual events of a hundred and fifty years ago in the Essendre manor-house.”

“That…is unconfirmed,” Rachel answered, brushing her hair from in front of her glasses with an elegant sweep of her hand. “And, more importantly, based in nothing but speculation. All evidence gathered from the so-called ‘evil’ site has shown that it was neither demonic activity, nor an act of God, that destroyed the manor and the surrounding area. The most logical explaination, and the one most sensible historians go by, is that a meteor fell and struck the home, much like at Tunguska in the early part of the 1900’s.”

“But the reports of murders and disappearances nearly tripled in the months prior to the events at the manor,” the student pressed. “The Vatican even recently released a long-hidden document written by a London priest and exorcist, revealing the presence of demons and vampires in England at that time. I’m sure you remember the huge stink the Human Advancement League made about it back in the 70’s.”

Rachel suppressed the urge to sigh. Of course she remembered it; she had based most of her college thesis paper on the HAL events. The Human Advancement League was supposedly a group of people who believed in the purity of the human race and shunned organized religions, but most people-Rachel included-saw them as little more than a cult of zealots and lunatics who had an overwhelming desire for attention. HAL had laid siege to the Vatican in 1977 to protest their “death grip” on humanity, and demanded the Pope release sensitive documents regarding the Church’s secret activities. Most of the information the Church fed to HAL was a bunch of carefully crafted lies and deceptions; any first-year history student would have been able to discern that much. But to the madmen at HAL, this information was like a juicy steak thrown to a pack of hungry lions. The information was devoured, and pumped for years into their newsletters as anti-religion propaganda. Several of the documents revealed the existence of a priest who went only by the moniker “J.M.”, who, according to his story, assisted a group of angels in the elimination of what he claimed to be the Devil. Regardless of whether or not the story is true, the priest certainly did know how to tell an exciting story.

“Yes, well…I wouldn’t put much faith in anything the Human Advancement League says or claims. The members of HAL are quite dangerous and quite insane.” Rachel removed her glasses, and neatly tucked them into her shirt pocket. “The true historian is a person who can look at facts objectively, and not be blinded by personal beliefs. Faith is a wonderful thing, but being blinded by it is dangerous. If you truly desire to put so much nonsense into your research, I believe there is a professor at the university who teaches Theology you may be interested in.”

A brief snicker rolled through the crowd. Rachel looked down at the podium, and released her grip when she saw she was grasping it hard enough to turn her knuckles white. Most of what she had just said, she didn’t even believe herself. She was an artificer; a collector of rare and magical items, most of which had some kind of religious history behind them. Of course, admitting as much to the public would put her in the insane asylum for sure, and giving an actual demonstration would cause more public controversy than she thought she would like to deal with. For now, it was just better that she denied the existence of magic and the occult. Besides, events like the one a hundred and fifty years ago were exceptionally rare. The chance of all that nonsense happening again-especially in her time-seemed laughably small.

“Yes. That will be enough spoken of that,” she said with a curt nod. “Let’s move on. Next slide, please.”

By BroodingDarkness

Before the birth of man there were the angels. The purpose of the Angelic Host was to keep the balance and guide man through it’s evolution… but many did not agree. This stand became known as The Fall and those that apposed the Host were known as the Fallen.

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