Diseased

By

Todd Jones

Copyright 1993

 

 

Dimitru sat hunched over a small table near the fireplace of Mulpie's Inn. The fire's soft light illuminated the room, but lent little warmth to his weary bones. Dimitru felt chilled; a chill that no heat could lend warmth to. There was an inner sickness that haunted him, for Dimitru was Nosferatu; a creature of the dark that is cursed to feed off the blood of lesser beings to survive. Until he could accept his condition, Dimitru would find no rest.

Dimitru circled the rim of his already warm mug of ale with his index finger. The liquid held a bitter taste that no matter how much he imbibed would never quench the thirst that he tried to bury deep inside him. The quaint dilapidated inn, located at the edge of the rural village of Tonnerville, was deserted, except for the servant boy. The lad, the innkeeper's son, was in his mid-teenage years and full of life. The way the lad skipped around the place keeping rhythm with a tune that he whistled while performing his chores; wiping off tables, straighten furniture and cleaning cookware, made Dimitru sink even deeper into his sullen mood. It was late, the time of night when most had retired for the evening, but for Dimitru this was his time and he was deep in thought.

The young man prodded the fire; satisfied that he had saved the smoldering embers from burning themselves out. He found himself drawn to the hunched figure that sat so ominously still. At first, just a glance over his shoulder, but then the lad could barely turn away. The young man had casually watched the stranger the previous night, not wanting to disturb him. The boy knew it would be a long night, for the stranger had not retired until just before dawn and would do the same this evening.

The lad had overheard patrons rumoring about the man's origin: his pale skin tone, reclusive nature and strange nocturnal behavior. The boy found the mystery intriguing and was compelled toward the man who had paid generously for his room and board in advance. This was not unusual, for drifters were not uncommon to these parts and the boy's father always made drifter types pay in advance, but to pay with a gold Delmar was definitely odd, if not overly extravagant. The Delmar had not been seen in these parts in over a century, much less used as currency, the boy's father had told him. It was worth a full year's wage to most and the boy was instructed to ensure that the stranger did not go wanting during his stay at Mulpie's Inn.

"Sir, can I get you-"

The stranger looked up from the fire, the hood of his cloak falling away to reveal gaunt facial features. Dimitru's hair was a matted mess of stringy black strands that clung to his face where recent wounds pussed. His eyes bore into the boy's soul. They glowed with a scarlet hue, which the lad attributed to a reflection of the fire, for never had he seen such eyes. They leapt with such passion, yet were burdened with an inner sadness and turmoil that made the boy pity the man. Through the smudged dirt the boy could tell that the stranger's clothing was constructed of expensive imported material that had been shredded into worthless rags, giving the man the appearance of a tattered street beggar. The stranger's material appearance was not what captivated the boy, rooting him where he stood, but rather the man's skin tone. It was beyond pale, almost a milky white that could only be described as the pasty flesh color of a corpse. Yet the skin held the beautiful delicate smoothness of a newborn child. It was ghastly and beautiful culminated together to form a pleasantly youthful texture.

"Leave me." The young man heard snarled in his mind even before his ears registered the words. The youth stumbled back a step; the hearth lending support to his suddenly weakened knees.

Dimitru gave a heavy sigh at the youth's oh too familiar reaction. His shoulders hunched in resign as weariness crept over him. He tried to smile, but all he could muster was a halfhearted grin. "I am sorry," Dimitru whispered returning to his ale.

"But...but...you are wounded and in need of care," the youth stammered. "Let me get you some dressings for your-"

"They will be fine, Joseph." The words were soft and comforting to the youth, almost hypnotic in their calming nature. How did the stranger know his name, Joseph thought, but the question drifted away in the man's soothing demeanor. There was an aura about him that humbled Joseph and left him with a fondness for the man.

"Be on with your chores, Joseph." Dimitru's hand beckoned the young man to leave him as he retracted his mind from the youth's. The boy was harmless and meant well, Dimitru instinctively knew.

"Yes, sire," Joseph said before skipping off to finish his chores.

Dimitru bellowed with a guttural laughter that shook his very innards. He had not laughed in so long. Even after a century, it still amazed him how easy it was to control those around him; those that were not Nosferatu. He leaned back in his chair with lightning speed, halting a mere inch from wall and teetering on the chair's hind legs. His movements were graceful and measured, but quicker than most could comprehend. Dimitru held the chair balanced on its hind legs while he studied Joseph. The boy's innocents warmed him, even from across the room. He could feel the young man's life force flowing, beckoning to him.

"You should be careful who you speak to, Joseph. Some of us are not so gracious," Dimitru projected to the boy, cementing the thought into his mind without the lad realizing. Dimitru had never included himself in the same category as his fellow fiends before, but he had to face the facts; he was one of them. Dimitru could not deny the lure of the youth's life. He could feel Joseph's heart pound and see the liquid, the life, coursing through the young man's veins. Joseph's blood would be sweet, so much more refreshing and invigorating than that of the animals that he had been surviving on. Oh, how sweet and savoring was the taste of young human blood, second only to that of another vampire.

Dimitru knew others of his kind would night hesitate in extinguishing this lad's life force, would not falter when it came to self-preservation, but he could not. Their evil plagued the world, corrupting all that it infested and Dimitru wanted no part of it. He had seen others rip the still beating heart from their victim's chest while they watched with a jovial demeanor until they collapsed into eternal sleep. This is the way of the vampire: self-centered, malicious and cruel all wrapped in beautifully graceful facade. A wolf, like no other, in sheep's clothing. This was their way, not his, not now, not ever.

Oh how Dimitru longed to have a normal life, like Joseph, but it was never meant to be. Dimitru's father, Bartholimul Alexandrith, was anything but normal; he was a third generation vampire lord, infested with the rot of vampirism by Bjorn the Ancient. Bjorn was the oldest of his clan and the depth of his power, none, including Bjorn himself, could fathom.

With the infestation came great power and a dark gift, as the Nosferatu called it. Bartholimul's gift, which was passed along to Dimitru, came as a greater understanding of the mind. All Nosferatu had a gift, something they excelled in, for some it was as dramatic as shapeshifting, while others displayed skills in necromancy or the arcane arts and still others could move with such speed as to appear to be invisible. The gift and the time it took to mature was different for each.

Bartholimul Alexandrith served Bjorn faithfully for over five centuries then the change came over him. It was a subtle alteration of his worldly outlook that only Bartholimul knew was culminating inside him; it was humanity reaching out to him. He suppressed it for several decades, falling into the blood lust that so many of the other vampires lived for to quench his yearnings, but eventually his downfall, as the others called it, caught up to him; he fell in love. The emotion was not unheard of among his kind, but definitely frowned on as a weakness. His love for a serving wench named Madeline, whose beauty and fondness for Bartholimul tamed his bestial nature, was overwhelming. Madeline was untainted by the curse of vampirism and Bartholimul made sure she stayed that way. In his house, she was queen and his servants knew to steer clear of her.

The Nosferatu were made sterile by the infestation of vampirism, its wicked nature ripping the natural creation process from them. Some nuance of humanity surfaced in Bartholimul and out of his love for Madeline a true blood-son; an abomination among the vampire clans was born. Dimitru was not created through vampirism's infestation, thus he was not bound by it. He possessed his own free will, something no vampire, except for the Ancients possessed. Even Bartholimul, strong as he was in mind and spirit, could not deny the call of the Ancient Ones, for long. If Dimitru's true heritage was discovered it would not be tolerated among their kind. A vampire was a thrall to its creator, because during the process of creation a part of the creator was transferred into the thrall. This part, as small as it might be, held sway over the thrall, dominating its will. An incessant physical as well as mental internal conflict thusly bound a vampire thrall to its creator, its vampire lord. This act of creation has been laid down over seven centuries ago by the Ancients and thus was law, which not a vampire dared to test: until now.

Bartholimul and Madeline spent twenty wonderful years together, a mere blink for one of Bartholimul's nature, until Bjorn discovered their naturally born vampiric son. Bjorn had dragged the boy, at seventeen years of age, to his parent's chamber and ordered his destruction by Bartholimul's own hands. Bartholimul struggled against Bjorn's commands for they went against all he had grown to love. The act was too veil for Bartholimul to comprehend; he loved his son even more than his own life. And that is what he clung to as his mind warped and turned in defiance of Bjorn's commands. Bartholimul clung to his love for his son and the hatred that erupted inside him toward Bjorn. He lashed out.

Bjorn was caught off guard by his own smugness and self-imposed invulnerability. Bartholimul transformed into a beastly creature, ripping and tearing at Bjorn's flesh. He was neither man nor wolf, but the hideous culmination of both and with the ferocious nature that outweighed their sum. Dimitru had never known his father to possess the art of shapeshifting and the anguish on his father's face told that Bartholimul was not accustomed to the pain involved in such a transformation. Bjorn's momentary surprise was quickly recovered, for one does not survive for millenniums without being hardened with an instinctive will to survive.

Bjorn retreated several paces to collect himself then almost instantly transformed into what can only be described as a repulsive mix between a man and a huge black bear. Scarlet orbs replaced the combatant's eyes and blood pooled at their feet from the multitude of wounds that erupted from both. Their attacks were quick and agile, both combatants eager to hold their ground and not give up their offensive attacks. The dazzling animalistic display of claw, claw, bite attack patterns captivated Dimitru, rooting him in place. The combatants danced with such ferocity that one of them would surely have to succumb. It soon became apparent that Dimitru's father was faltering, overwhelmed by Bjorn's combat tactics in such an unnatural form.

Bartholimul staggered back several steps, desperately trying to secure his footing on the pool of his own blood that collected at his feet. He stole a glance at his son, which bore into Dimitru's soul. It could not have lasted more than a quarter of a second, but Dimitru heard his father clearly, "Run! Run for your life and never return here."

Madeline heard the mental call as well and pushed her son into motion. He could see clearing in his mother's eyes that he would never see them again, and for the first time in his life he wept.

He put as much distance between him and his kind as his feet would allow. He ran for hours, resting only to shield himself from the sun's unrelenting heat. The hours blended into nights, and the nights blended into weeks, while Dimitru ran. He slept during the bright days, for exposure to the sun would surely be the death of a normal vampire; lighting their evil soul on fire as surely as an oil soaked log when a flame was set to it. Dimitru, driven by desperation to be far from his kind, found that as long as he kept well covered on overcast days he could endure the pain that the sun wrought on him. He fed on the blood of animals, bitter was the taste, but how sweet and necessary was the rejuvenating life force they delivered to him.

Eventually, Dimitru settled down and became, of all things, a farmer who tended to his animals and crops by the light of the silver moon. The secluded farm in the woods offered the privacy he required. He became content in his newfound lifestyle and grew accustomed to the blood of animals.

Dimitru grew quickly, feeling himself germinating as the years uneventfully drifted by. He remembered how his father took thralls; infesting a human with the disease of vampirism by drinking their blood, feeding off their strength, then creating newfound strength in them with his superior lifeblood. Those newly formed vampires would come into their powers fully within a year, but Dimitru could not say the same for himself. He was not created in such a fashion, thus his maturity process was as much a mystery to himself as it was to his father. Dimitru remembered Bartholimul telling him that it was conceivable that he could grow to be stronger than even himself one day, if he survived. He had survived and left the evils of his kind far behind him. Then, one day they came for him. They had not forgotten, as he had hoped for almost a decade now, they would never forget.

The chair teetered in its precarious position for seconds, which ran into minutes and the minutes ran in hours without wavering, until Dimitru pulled his gaze from the lad and willed the chair down. Dimitru was skilled in the art of the mind and in times of lust, like the blood lust that he felt swelling in him over Joseph, he fell into himself and forced his mind to control his body. The lust for the boy replenishing blood diminished, replaced with the rage that his kind inspired in him.

Dimitru had heard the rumors about a man who had been seen stumbling from a burning barn several nights past on the northern ridge. He knew the tale was no mere fireside story and that man was not just a man, but rather an account of his own actions. The tale had quickly floated through the village, as stories do in small communities. A local farmer said he came across five ghoulish creatures strewn around a secluded barn one hellish night as he returned from hunting. By the time the farmer returned to the scene just after dawn, with some local villagers, all that was left of the bodies were small piles of ash. It was as if someone had lit each body on fire, but no there were no signs of heat markings around the piles.

Joseph's prodding of the fire raised Dimitru from his thoughts. His gaze fixated on the blue vein that ran down Joseph's neck, the way it pulsed with each beat of the boy's heart. The recanting of his father's joy for the blood, and his own need for nourishment rekindled the lust inside him. Dimitru involuntarily ran his tongue over his teeth, touching gently against his now elongated fangs as they threatened to pierce his lower lip.

Oh, how Dimitru remembered the way his father enjoyed the bloodletting. "It is a necessity of life, my son," Bartholimul used to say casually. "Besides we need servants for the manor and if we do not take them, others will. We can not let them become fortified while we cringe from our true nature."

Bartholimul was sympathetic to his son, he always tried to make the blood letting appear to disgust him. The expression on his father's face spoke more than his father ever could; the tranquility that came over him during the process, when the blood entered him, and the strength that possessed him afterward told Dimitru much, "The blood is the life."

"Pardon sir, what blood," Joseph asked sheepishly.

"Nothing," Dimitru replied.

"Those gashes on your face must hurt," Joseph said. "I'll get you something to clean the wounds-"

"Don't bother. They will heal fine of their own accord. My kind tends to heal extremely fast."

Joseph noticed that the wounds were not as deep as he remembered them to be earlier. He picked up Dimitru's, now empty, mug and wiped the table down. Joseph turned to put another log on the fire, but he was tired and tripped over his own feet. The glass mug fell from his grasp and shattered on the stone foundation of the hearth. Joseph cursed to himself as he knelt down to pick up the pieces.

"Such language from one so young," Dimitru said. Again, the boy heard the words in his mind before his ears could ascertain their meaning. He looked up at the stranger inquisitively, unsure of how he had heard him.

"Ouch," Joseph yelped, jerking his hand from a shard of glass that pierced his skin.

Dimitru flowed from his seat; his motions smooth and lightning fast. To Joseph it seemed that he had simply appeared at his side. Dimitru's fangs, something Joseph had not noticed before, jutted from his gaping mouth. Dimitru grabbed the boy's hand, jerking it forcefully toward his mouth. The strain of his fatigue and the sight of the youth's blood erupted an undeniable hunger. The blood lust swept over him, carrying Dimitru into one of the most blissful sensations he had ever experienced. He yearned for the nourishment, he longed for the sweet taste, and he felt the strength as it entered him. It was his nature, his life.

Suddenly, the front door to the inn burst open. It splintered and flew from its hinges sending fragments and splinters of woods across the room. Dimitru thrust Joseph's hand from him, blood dripping from his lower lip.

Two clan members strode through the aperture. Dimitru could feel their power and berated himself for not sensing them earlier. The Nosferatu had come for him, again.

"So this is where you have been hiding your worthless self," One of the vampires said.

"Bjorn has been looking for you," The other chided in with a sinister grin. "He wants your head, and we are here to give the master what he desires."

A low growl erupted from Dimitru as the beast that dwelled within him serviced. His eyes blazed a scarlet red and his blood boiled with hatred and loathing. They would not leave him alone, Dimitru knew that Bjorn would never rest until he was destroyed. So it came in a wave of clarity, it was either him or them.

Dimitru thrust his thoughts at the first vampire, projecting himself into the creatures' mind. Bartholimul, a master in the art, had instructed his son well for the first vampire fell to his knees, clutching his head at the unexpected strength of the psychic attack. Dimitru's thoughts ripped through the vampire's head, spreading shear agony wherever they touched.

The vampire's companion, displayed no concern or remorse toward his fallen comrade, lunged toward Dimitru. Dimitru fought to hold consciousness, for in his weakened state, the room swirled. He stumbled backward in a feeble attempt to defend himself, but Dimitru could see clearly his demise in the lustful face of the second vampire as he slashed his gleaming dagger toward Dimitrus' throat. But then suddenly the vampire halted and began spasmodically jerking about. Something had whistled through the air from the area by the bar and struck the vampire in the chest. The creature fell to the ground, clawing at the end of a crossbow bolt that had buried itself into its chest.

Dimitru turned toward the darkened corner, his eyes seeing clearing within its depth's, to see Joseph clutching a crossbow. Dimitru struggled with the first vampire, its screams echoing through the stillness of the night. Then another of Joseph's bolts soon ended it pathetic existence.

"I can not hide from them," Dimitru conceded, his head hanging low in exhaustion.

Joseph strode over to Dimitru, the crossbow once again loaded. Dimitru did not care if Joseph used it on him, he thought it a fitting end for one of his kind. He welcomed death's sweat embrace. When he looked into Joseph's eyes, Dimitru could see that the inquisitive boy was gone, replaced with the stern expression of a man who had come to terms with a new threat that had entered his life and it had hardened him.

"You will need this," Joseph said handing Dimitru the crossbow.

Dimitru welcomed it, feeling its well-balanced weight in his hands. He turned to thank Joseph, but the youth was gone. The game had been set in motion and it was Dimitru's move.

"Oh how the mighty will fall." Dimitru's smile turned into a wicked grin; the grin of salvation and repentance. He blended into the night fading into shadows, but not allowing them to possess him for he knew his purpose now; he would not rest until the term Nosferatu was something only to be found in legends.