Vampire World 1 Blood Brothers


Chapter 1


Looking Back


Morning. Sunrise. Sunup!

The sun had risen up fifteen times since the battle for The Dweller's garden; risen up over the southwestern horizon, travelled a predestined path according to its cycle, sunk down again into the south-east. Fifteen times that low, warm, oh so lazy golden arc across the sky, making for a like number of sundowns.

Sundown: night, darkness, peril!

Sundown. A time of terror since time immemorial: when the last yellow glints would slip silently from the high crags of the great barrier range, until its topmost peaks turned a pale ochre, then ashen, finally wolf-grey and silver under the stars of Starside. A time of terror, yes ....ut no longer. For the battle in The Dweller's garden had been fought and won, and the near-immortal masters of Starside's aeries, the Wamphyri, were immortal no longer. Indeed, they were either dead or flown into the Icelands. Of the latter, only a few had survived to flee.

Sundown, and nothing to fear from it. Not any more. It was strange ...

On the one side of the mountains, that closest to the sun (Sunside, with its forests and rivers, and, to the south, its pitiless furnace lands), daylight would persist for a further twenty-five hours; but on Starside the barrier mountains shut out the sun's life-giving warmth, leaving only the stars and the aurora over the Icelands to light the rugged land. So it had always been, so it would always be.

Except upon a time there had also been the Wamphyri!... But now there was none. Not in Starside, anyway. No vampires here but one, and he was different. He was The Dweller.

And at the beginning of that new night, that fifteenth sundown in the New Age of Starside, The Dweller had called for Lardis Lidesci to attend him at his house in the garden high over Starside's boulder plains.

Lardis was a Traveller king, leader of one of Sunside's Szgany tribes. He was short, barrel-bodied, apelike in the length of his arms; his lank black hair framed a wrinkled, weather-beaten face, with a flattened nose and a wide mouth full of strong, uneven teeth. Under wild eyebrows, Lardis's brown eyes glittered his mind's agility, even as he himself was agile despite his stumpy shape. Yes, he was Szgany, and it showed.

'Szgany': in fact the word had two meanings. Star-side's trogs, cavern-dwelling neanderthals, likewise called themselves Szgany. To them it meant 'The Obedient Ones' - obedient to the Wamphyri! As for the genesis of Traveller usage, that was lost in time. Now when the Gypsies used the word to define other than a trog, it best described themselves, their way of life: tinkers, music-makers, seekers after refuge (often in deep caverns, like the dwelling places of the trogs), wandering metalworkers, fey people: Szgany.

Travellers. Ah, but upon a time - an oh so recent time - there had been reasons aplenty for the nomadic existence of the Gypsies! And each and every one of those reasons monstrous, and all of them inhabiting the stone- and bone-built aeries of the Wamphyri! But the Wamphyri were no more.

It was strange; Lardis was not yet accustomed to it; the sun was setting for the fifteenth time since the great battle and still he shivered, longing for the misted valleys, wooded slopes and forests of Sunside. Across the mountains it was still twilight and true dark many hours away. Plenty of time to find sanctuary in one or another of the many labyrinthine systems of caverns, there to wait out the night until ... But no, all of that was yesterday. Yet again Lardis must remind himself: Fool! The yoke is lifted. The Szgany are free!

Pausing where he made his way through the garden, Lardis looked back and up at the topmost crags. They were ashen now: charcoal dusted a pale blue-grey from the brightening stars, the colour of a wolf at twilight. Soon the hurtling moon would be up, half golden in the sun's reflected light, half blue as Icelands sheen. Then the wolves of Sunside would sing up from the dark forests and down from the pine-clad mountains, and those of Starside would hear them, yawn and stretch, emerge from their treeline dens and answer with songs of their own. For the moon was mistress to all the grey brothers.

Shivering (from the chill of twilight?), Lardis glanced all about in the dusk. At trog workers, leathery, shuffling, nocturnal, already up and about and seeing to their various duties; at the dim but reassuring yellow lights