The Circus Master: The Book of the Vampires Part 2: The Circus Folk

 

John Ferguson couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten so much, and considering he wasn’t what you’d call a light eater that was really saying a lot.

Ferguson was a gluttonous man in virtually all aspects of his life. Food, wine, women and especially wealth. He was notorious for his meanness and firing his employees for the most trivial issues.

Ferguson was the owner of a local flour mill. He was somewhat richer than other mill owners in London however which he always boasted was because he ran such a successful business. In truth however it was because of his cheapness. He’d not only pay his employees virtually non existent wages, but he’d stiff them as much as he could and cut as many corners in terms of health and safety as possible. Accidents were more common at his Mill than possibly any other in London with 6 people having died in the last year alone.

Ferguson was hated by all his employees and the local community alike, but he didn’t care. All Ferguson cared about was maintaining his own selfish, hedonistic lifestyle. Sadly for John Ferguson however, a life time of selfishness was about to catch up to him.

Ferguson often walked home alone and tonight was no exception. He hated having to waste money on a carriage, and he felt assured that due to his influence, no one would dare try and attack him in the dark.

This night would be different. As he stumbled drunkenly through the fogs of the London night (after having just celebrated another successful financial year at his favourite resturant.) Ferguson spotted what looked like a shambling figure in the very distance, headed in his direction. “Probably a begger” he thought to himself and instinctively turned away. It soon became apparent to the miser however that the “begger” was following him.

“Oh great” he thought “I’ll have to actually push him away with my cane again. Why don’t these people learn?”

Ferguson approached the begger confidently. “Look sir, I don’t know who you are, and you clearly don’t know who I am or else you wouldn’t be bothering me. I’ve just had a big meal, I’d like to get home and”

The begger who still did his best to conceal his face behind a ragged hood interrupted Ferguson “Don’t worry I wouldn’t expect any show of humanity from you. Unfortunately for you” the figure raised his head, pulling his rags back, and revealing his hideous, monstrous face to a petrified Ferguson. “You can now expect the same from me.”

The figures skin was bright white and rock hard. Its features were long and pointed, whilst its mouth was filled with razor sharp teeth. Like all Vampires, its upper canines however were the longest. Its claws were tar black and long, whilst its hair was thinning and scraggly looking.

As John slowly backed away from the monster in terror, he thought that he could actually recognise the beast for a moment before his fear overcame him. Ferguson raised his cane to the stranger in a pitiful attempt to defend himself. The monster however quickly batted the cane from his hand.

“Listen, whatever you are. If you harm me there will be consequences I can assure you. I’m not some useless beggar, or jumped up harlet. I’m.”

The monster interrupted Ferguson’s egocentric pleas. It spoke in a hideous, screeching hissing voice.

“Oh they’ll notice you’re gone, but only out of relief you’re finally gone. Come now, look closely at this face. The last you will ever see. Don’t you recognise me? Or do all the people whose lives you destroy just blur together as one inconsequential mess.”

Ferguson looked more closely at the aberration. There was indeed a creeping sense of familiarity in the Demonic visage.

It finally hit John when the monster raised its right arm from out of the robes it was wearing. John could clearly see that it had a stump where its right hand should be. “Of course. You’re that Richards bastard aren’t you. Is this your latest pathetic little prank to try and get back at me for your failure of a life?” Even in the face of certain death, Ferguson’s arrogance knew no bounds.

Richards had once worked in Ferguson’s mill. Due to his constant cutting corners however, Richards had lost an arm in one of Ferguson’s filthy machines. After the accident he was deemed unfit for work, and unable to get another job. Tragically Richard’s daughter later died of rickets whilst his wife drank herself to death in grief.

Richards had always blamed Ferguson for what happened and eventually he even tried to attack him in the street. Even with one hand Richards had managed to overpower Ferguson, but the police had quickly apprehended him. Ferguson through his connections was able to make sure that Richards would be in prison for life, but now he had seemingly escaped. Ferguson started to think that he wasn’t really a monster, and that Richards was just trying to scare him and remained defiant.

“Its not my fault you were so incompetent you had an accident, or that you were unable to provide for your own family. Its tragic what became of them, but that is your concern. This pathetic little attempt to scare me with that clown make up is not going to work. Now either you let me pass, or I’ll make sure they bloody well hang you this time for attempted murder.”

Richards was still unscared however, and simply let out a devilish smile before slashing the man he hated more than any other across the face.

Ferguson wasn’t used to pain, and the sudden shock alone was enough to bring him to his knees.

As he stared down at the pavement and saw his own blood drip onto the pavement, Ferguson had a sudden realisation of the danger he was in and shouted out for help as he darted down the street as fast he could. There was no one around however, and even if there was no one could save him from the fury of an undead monster that wanted his blood.

Just when Ferguson thought he had escaped his undead tormentor, Richards suddenly jumped down in front of him. He hadn’t been chasing Ferguson at all. Richards had simply waited until the Mill owner was a good distance away, and then leaped in front of him. The Vampire must have jumped over 40 feet in the air, and could clearly see through the fog no problem.

Ferguson knew that didn’t have a chance of escape and so he now tried to bargain with the monster.

“Look Richards maybe we can come to some kind of arrangement. I can pull some strings, get you a lighter sentence.”

Richards wasn’t listening however. Instead he grabbed Ferguson’s right arm and bit right through his skin, veins, muscle and even bone. With his teeth alone he ripped Ferguson’s hand clean off. Ferguson passed out from the pain and blood loss within seconds, but the Vampire wasn’t through torturing the miser yet.

Richards dug its claws into Ferguson’s back and lifted him up off the ground with one hand in a fantastic demonstration of superior Vampire strength.

Ferguson was a massive man. Richards in comparison looked tiny, yet here he was, balancing Ferguson above his head on one finger. If anyone else had been around it would have looked both a horrifying and comical sight.

Richards threw Ferguson about 6 feet threw the air to the other side of the road. Ferguson landed head first, and for a second Richards was scared that he had finished his enemy too soon. When the Vampire went to examine him however he saw that unfortunately for Ferguson, he was still breathing!

The monster ran one of its massive claws along the bottom of Ferguson’s stomach and started to disembowel him. Ferguson awoke from the pain only to see his former, Demonic employee holding his intestines in its clawed hands as it started to lick them. The last sight Ferguson saw was Richards bearing down on him, hissing his blood soaked fangs, and spitting Ferguson’s own blood over his face.

“Come on love, any longer and we’ll be late” Carlene shouted to Brian as she stood by the door with Ashlei, Tom and Daniel. She heard no response for a few minutes and started to worry before Brian came staggering out of the bathroom, looking like badly made up bed.

“Sorry Miss Vampire, I, I don’t know what came over me.”

“Love, call me Carlene remember. Oh dear you look a right state darling. Here let me help you get ready.”

Ashlei sighed. “I don’t see why we’re bothering going to this Circus. You said you saw the blue woman in the sewers? So tell the authorities and they’ll arrest her. Problem solved.”

Carlene frowned. “I told you the authorities often aren’t able to deal with this sort of thing love. Besides all she did in the sewers was help me. Your little brother might not even be ere if it wasn’t for that blue siren. I need answers and I’m going to find them myself. Besides I would have thought you’d have wanted to go to the Circus. Its a day out.”

“I hate it. Big bright, flashy colours to distract idiots from how horrible their lives are.” Ashlei said bitterly.

“Well if it makes you feel any better its not exactly my scene either, but I suspect there’s something odd with this Circus and I want to find out.” Carlene replied firmly.

Whilst the two were talking, Daniel sat absorbed in the morning paper. He had noticed that there was one more reported disappearance from last night, that of the local mill owner and tycoon, John Ferguson.

Ashlei smirked when she heard John had vanished. “Miserable old bastard” she said. “You wouldn’t have to be a Vampire to want to tear his neck out.”

“Ashlei” Carlene said sharply. “I don’t care who this man was, don’t ever talk that way about someone. Trust me when I say this. No deserves to die at the hands of a Vampire.”

Ashlei bowed her head somewhat. “I’m sorry, but he was the most mean spirited man I’ve ever come across. He kicked me one time when I tried to ask him for some food.”

“Ashlei’s right” Daniel interrupted. “There’s no shortage of ordinary people that would want to see John dead, but according to this” he handed the paper to Carlene. “William Richards, who had previously been arrested for an attempt on Ferguson’s life was broken out of prison the other day. The police don’t know how, but one witness, a drunken beggar claims to have seen a giant bat like creature rip the walls off of the prison.”

“It seems someone is using the book of to create new Vampire breeds after all. If only I knew where that bloody fool had kept it? I never fitted in with that lot. Van Helsing and his cronies. I mean to be fair I am kind of a monsters, but still. Working with them was a nightmare.” Carlene said as she went to check on Brian.

Brian came out of the bathroom dressed in a small penguin suit, looking a lot more energetic than before. Carlene had made sure they all had a good meal, a couple of hours rest and clean clothes to change into before going to the Circus. Naturally they had to look presentable to go to the Circus, but she couldn’t bare to see the children in those filthy rags for another second.

When the four arrived in the audience many heads turned towards Carlene. They often did, but this time the fact that she arrived with 4 children/teenagers shocked people all the more.

One gentleman in the audience felt so appalled that these children were with a Vampire of all creatures, that he had to interject.

“Please I don’t know what you want, but those are children.” He said in a scared, but still somewhat confident tone. Just then Brian surprisingly came to Carlene’s defence before any of the others could. “Get away you stupid sod. This woman here saved our lives whilst you were sitting on your arse, moaning about too many children playing across the road!”

The man backed down. Carlene patted Brian on the back, whilst Ashlei looked on in concern. She had never seen Brian react that way. He was normally such a calm, gentle, quiet little boy. It seemed the experience in the sewers had changed him somewhat.

The Circus of Tzas opened with the usual parade of animals doing tricks. The Circus Master was a huge colourful character on stage. He must have been roughly 6 foot 5 inches tall, with an enormous build, though he was still incredibly thin overall. He frock coat was bright red with gold decorations running down the lapels, whilst his hair was long, jet black and curly. Atop his head sat a tiny, but very long  bright blue top hat. He had thick, bright green gloves and yellow, stripped trousers. His face was very long thin and deathly pale. His eyes looked as though they were locked into a permanent scowl, whilst there was a constant, somewhat unsettling smile on his face. His voice was incredibly deep and booming, At times it didn’t even sound human. Many children in the audience appeared to find him quite scary at times, particularly those in the front row. Carlene took an instant disliking to the Circus Master. Why she couldn’t quite put her finger on. He didn’t seem evil, but she just didn’t like him. Despite his unsettling nature he was a very up beat and energetic performer all around.

Everyone seemed entertained by the Circus various antics. Even Ashlei, despite her dour, persona began to warm to some of the animal tricks. Right from the start Carlene however could see something was amiss about the whole thing. The Circus animals weren’t real. They were magical illusions. Carlene could only tell thanks to her heightened Vampire senses.

She could smell the magic off of them. The Circus Master himself didn’t seem human either. There was something about him that didn’t seem right. Carlene had been around enough Vampires, Demons and other unnatural creatures in her long life to know when one was trying to pass as a human.

She felt the same way about one of the later acts, a small child called The Strange Boy. The Strange Boy was Chinese and also deathly pale in appearance. He didn’t say a word, and his expressions also seemed completely blank.

Nevertheless the boy didn’t have to say anything. He amazed the crowd through displays of almost impossible strength. He crushed several large blocks of stone with his bare hands, and he lifted another performer, a 7 foot tall, bear of a man called Keptis (who dressed in strange armour) above his head no problem.

A young black woman (already a most unusual sight in Victorian England) named Denika also performed various tricks which were clearly the work of magic. She conjured up images of the most fantastic creatures and beasts that both terrified and amazed the crowd.

Finally the blue Siren who Carlene had seen the night before performed a closing song. The Circus Master introduced her as Florence Faith. Just as in the Underground Carlene was the only one not completely enchanted by the strange blue skinned, flame haired songstress. Even Ashlei was utterly mesmerised.

Carlene knew the Siren’s song was magic, and that it could entrance anyone (according to the legends) but she still couldn’t help but feel a little bit jealous. In all her years as a singer, she had never won over a crowd to that extent she thought.

When the Circus was finished, Carlene waited behind. She wanted to speak with the performers herself. The three children waited with her. They wanted to find out what these creatures were just as much. Ashlei meanwhile had calmed down a little after hearing the Sirens song and was a bit more laid back than before.

Carlene assured them that they would be safe. In spite of the fact that they weren’t human, Carlene did not think that the Circus folk whoever they were, were actually evil.

She waited just outside the main tent, having managed to sneak her way in there without making a sound.

Keeping hidden behind two barrels, Carlene saw the Circus Master standing outside the tent holding what looked like a strange sphere. All round him where the various animals and performers. One by one the performers walked past him into the tent. Denika, The Strange Boy, Keptis and finally the Siren, Florence Faith.

Just then the Circus Master utter a strange sounding chant and the Circus animals vanished into nothing but a puff of smoke, before the Circus Master joined the others.

“By god you were right” said Daniel in an exasperated tone. “These fellows aren’t human.”

“Neither am I” said Carlene as she moved closer to the tent to inspect it. Carefully Carlene lifted something out of her beehive. A long bottle of green liquid.

“What’s that” Ashlei asked.

“Its a little something I picked up from the future. A powerful magical recipe. First created in the year 1963. It can freeze an entire area like a building that’s made of magic and all of those in it for a short while. This entire tent is made from magic.”

“How can you tell”

“Trust me I can. A little dab of this and this tent and all in it will be trapped. Only for a few moments of course after which they’ll be perfectly fine, they won’t even know what’s happened. It will allow us to enter the tent and make sure that they’re on the level, find out if there’s anything they know or not. After all, can’t be too sure. I have an instinct that they’re not evil, but instincts aren’t enough”

As Carlene sprinkled the potion on the Tent however nothing happened at first.

“That’s odd” Carlene said somewhat worried. “Normally this works right away and we start to see a”

Before the Vampire could finish however she suddenly felt a faint feeling coming over her. She started to black out, and when she regained her senses the Vampire saw she was now in a totally different place from before.

The Vampire had materialised in a large room with stone walls, floor and ceiling. At the far end of the room looked like a living area. There were 3 recliner chairs, and a massive couch perched in front of what looked like a massive television set and a 21st century video game system above the television. Behind the living quarters were several bunk beds.

“How can they possibly have all this in the 19th century” Carlene thought.

As she looked around the room she saw on the far right side what looked like a work area where Denika was tinkering away with some strange device. In the centre of the room, just behind where Carlene had arrived was a massive fountain, with green water.

All of the walls were decorated with various paintings from what looked like different eras, whilst on the left side of the room was a massive book case over 20 feet tall.

“Who are you” barked the Circus Master who emerged from behind the fountain alongside the Strange Boy, Keptis and Florence.

Carlene turned around to defend herself but found she couldn’t move to fight or even run away. Clearly this was the inside of the tent. It looked about the same size from the outside. Whatever magics had constructed the tent had not only repelled her magics, but pulled her inside and were now keeping her firmly in place.

“Relax we’re not going to hurt you” The Circus Master said firmly. “I just want to know why and how you were trying to tamper with my ship.”

“Ship?” Carlene said in confusion?

“Its okay” Florence interrupted. “This is the woman I met in the sewers yesterday. She helped save those children. At least I think.”

Just then, Daniel, Tom, Brian and Ashlei came charging in through the tent doors, which still looked like cloth on the inside rather than stone.

“Get away from her you freaks” Ashlei who was ahead of the three boys and wielding a pipe shouted.

“Relax young lady. We’re not here to hurt any of you, I just need to know why you’re here.” The Circus Master said to the four urchins.

Carlene spoke up. “I’m here about the book of Khastran.”

All of the Circus Folk gave Carlene a look, except for the Strange Boy who continued to stare into space.

“Someone has found it from wherever Van Helsing left it and is using it to create new Vampire species around London. I had a run in with one as did your friend here in the underground, but it looks like there’s still at least one new breed out there.”

The Circus Master was quick to correct Carlene. ” We’ve only been here for a few days, but at my last count there’s about 15 new breeds. created in the last few months or so.

“Fifteen? But that’s not possible?” Carlene gasped. “I would have known.”

“Whoever is doing this has a clear plan. They want to create an army of Vampires. They’re keeping them hidden until the time is right, only turning the best people into Vampires. Or should I say the worst. Vampires represent all the darkest qualities of humanity let loose. People who were scum in life, or full of anger, regret, bitterness. They always make the most effective Vampires. This city, full of corruption, poverty, and greed is the perfect place for them to create an army” The Circus Master said with regret. “Then again just about any city throughout history is. Wherever there are people, there will always be enough resentment and anger to make more Vampires”

“How did you track them down” Carlene asked.

“Well we knew they were here from the start. We were told to track them down.”

“By who?”

“It would take too long to explain, and besides I have some questions I would like to ask of you young lady.” The Circus Master said. “How did you come into possession of magics that powerful?”

“It would take too long to explain” Carlene said sarcastically.

“From the looks of things it seems neither of us belong to this time.” Carlene continued as she glanced round at the television set in the corner.

Just then a strange look of surprise and delight came over the Circus Masters face and he went to consult his books.

“What do you mean” said Denika, who up until now had largely ignored Carlene and focused on her work.

“Well I’m just saying I know that technology at the back won’t be around for about 100 years at least, and that the magics I used to try and freeze this tent are far more powerful than just about anything a Wizard in Victorian London is likely to have.”

Before Denika could respond, Carlene suddenly felt herself able to move again.

“Sorry, I now know who you are. You’re Carlene aren’t you.” The Circus Master said as put a book he just skimmed through back on the shelf.

“Who?” Denika said in response?

“She’s a Vampire, but don’t worry she’s one of the few nice ones alongside our friend Florence. She was thrust through time by powerful magics and now fights evil on the streets of London. Am I right?”

“Pretty much. How do you know all that?”

“Well lets just say you’re right. We’re not of this time either. Unlike you however we’re not trapped. We can move freely through time and space, though everywhere we go, we have a mission to complete.”

“A mission from who.” Carlene said with interest.

“Time itself. You can’t change history. Not in the slightest. This ship sends us to places we were always supposed to go, events we were always supposed to make happen. That’s still no guarantee that we’ll win. If we fail then history takes a different course, and we are banished to the same place all of those who don’t belong in the universe go. The Abyss.

“What’s the Abyss”

“It exists outside our universe. You can travel through time, you can make your own history, but like I said you can’t change it in any way. Once you do, you become an anomaly. Suppose you went backwards in time to prevent a war, well then in the new timeline the war would never have happened, so you’d never have gone backwards in time to try and fix it. Then however, the war would happen, and so you would go back to fix it, but then it wouldn’t happen so you wouldn’t and so on, and so on.”

He continued. “A paradox like that upsets the natural order and is danger of poisoning everything around it. So to prevent it from happening, the Guardians of the Abyss would hunt you down and imprison you there. There is no time in the Abyss. You’ll live forever, trapped with other lost souls.”

“It sounds like hell” Ashlei said.

“In many ways it is. Like I said however its not just if you change history. Its if you fail to make your own. For instance imagine you come from the 21st century and you travel backwards in time and fail to save the earth from a contemporary threat in the 19th century. Even if you survive, then you will now be anomaly from an erased time line and the Abyss will claim you. There’s no way you can escape the Guardians. They can travel anywhere to any time.”

“You sound like you talk from experience.” Carlene said.

The Circus Master didn’t reply for a few moments before continuing as if Carlene hadn’t even spoke.

“You can see how time travelling comes at a price Vampire. In many ways we are all prisoners here until time has had enough of us. If we dare try to leave before then we could be changing time and the Guardians will come for us. They’re hideous creatures.”

“How do you know what you’re sent here to do though?” Carlene asked. “For all you know you could be changing history by killing these Vampires?”

The Circus Master pointed towards the fountain. “When we first arrive a vision will appear in the fountain. It will guide us on what we have to do. Its still often vague mind you. This time though it was reasonably clear. It showed us a vision of the new Vampire breeds, and the Book of Khastran.”

Carlene took a minute or so to take this all in. Even for the type of life she had led, a time travelling magic circus seemed a bit much. She wondered what it must have been like for the children!

“So what’s your stories then. I mean you seem to know everything about me, its only polite I know a bit more about you.” Carlene said somewhat nervously to the Circus Folk.

“I quite agree” the Circus Master responded in a somewhat chipper tone. “Well we are all going to be working together.”

“Working together” Denika interrupted?

“Yes” The Circus Master said as he looked round at the rest of the Circus Folk who were somewhat confused at first but soon realised what he meant.

“Thanks darling. I was hoping that you lot would help us out. I knew you weren’t evil.” Carlene said.

Denika would be the first to speak. All of the Circus Folk seemed eager to tell their stories. It wasn’t often that they got to share them with people outside their circle as they were so outrageous.

We are all from different times” Denika said. “I’m from the 21st century, at least originally. I grew up on another world, in another universe to this one.

“You’re not serious!” Tom said in shock, which earned him disapproving looks from almost everyone in the room. “Right of course sorry do go on” he said somewhat sheepishly.

“Me and my parents were abducted when I was just a baby.” Denika continued. “My parents practised magic. It had been in my family for generations. We were taken by members of an alien race called The Melirsek  to another universe in another realm. In this universe, space is an ocean teeming with life. You could swim from one planet to another. As long as you could hold your breath long enough.

The world I was taken to was under constant attack from a race of predators that dwelled within the oceans of that universe called the Grestalerik. The Melirsek had created magical barriers around their worlds to prevent the monsters from swimming into their planet.

The Melirsek’s magic was no longer effective in repelling the monsters however. So they travelled to different universes to try and find a way to harness the magic of other realities to use against these monsters. They’d capture magical creatures from all over the omniverse, and grind their bodies up to use the magic from their bones which they’d then power the shield around their planet with.

Both of my parents were ground up. I was only spared because one of the guards named Glissberg took pity on me, a helpless infant and got me out of there. He and his wife Rassberg would later raise me. Though they kept me sheltered from the rest of the world for the first 18 years or so of my life. The name they gave me was from my parents.

I was the only humanoid on that planet so I’d tend to stick out in a crowd. I hope. They’d only let me out for a walk night, when everyone was asleep. I can remember staring up at the green waters of the sky. You could see hundreds of those monsters staring down at us, slabbering at the thought of being able to break through the shield..”

“Why didn’t the Gresta-whatever go to another world”. Said Carlene.

“Once the Grestalerik set their sights on a planet they will not leave until they have consumed it. They would have waited until the universe burnt itself out just to get us.”

Denika continued “Considering my parents were giant amorphous blob like creatures I had a reasonably happy and stable up bringing. My mother would teach me the magic of her universe, whilst the magics of my own came naturally to me thanks to my bloodline. Magic would be my only release all those years spent cramped up alone. I even used to conjour up friends. They weren’t real of course. Just figments of my imagination, but they filled a void.

Sadly when I was 18 I got too stir crazy being locked up all the time and so I went out one night by myself. I was exploring the beautiful Mizian gardens when a couple of blobs saw me. There was widespread panic at a “monster” being loose in the city. My parents were forced to go into hiding with me. It was a rough couple of years, but it was nothing compared to what was to come.”

“I’m not sure I want to hear this” Carlene said.

“The Grestalerik eventually found a way to break through the barriers and decimated my, their world.” Denika said. All of my life I had been terrified of the blobs. Now I pitied them.

As the last of the blobs huddled together underground they tried to construct a giant vessel that could allow us to travel through the waters of my universe. I helped them. Its funny how people or blobs will forget their prejudices when faced with certain death.

Unfortunately just as we were about to take off, the Grestalerik found and attacked our base underground. It was a massacre. Only about 3 of us got out. My adopted parents were among those the creature butchered.

We travelled the oceans of the universe for many years searching for a new world, but we never found one. Eventually the vessel broke down and I was left stranded on Narsika, a planet that brings out your darkest and most feral urges to the fore. Some say it isn’t a world, but a Demon that lures people there to turn into monsters to set loose on the universe. According to legend the most feared and evil creatures of my universe all originated on Narsika including the Grestalerik themselves. I managed to fight the planet’s influence, but sadly my ship mates all succumbed to it and became Demons. I surely would have too, if The Circus Master hadn’t found me. He rescued me and brought back to my universe and I’ve never looked back.”

“You’ve been nothing but an asset to this team my dear” The Circus Master said proudly. “Your knowledge of magics is far greater than anyone I’ve ever come across. I can’t think of how many times we’d be dead without you.”

Carlene could see Denika was getting a bit awkward at the praise, so she tried to change the subject. “What about you, eh Florence, what’s your deal.”

“I come from this time”. The Siren spoke in a somewhat posh, refined very English voice. It was the antithesis to how Carlene spoke.

“There will be a young me running about playing with her friends not too far from here, with no comprehension of the horrors ahead of her. Then again the same is true for most children of this time. I was born to a high class family.”

“Yeah we can tell” said Ashlei.

“Anyway,” Florence continued somewhat annoyed. “I was born to a high class family who spoiled me terribly growing up. My biggest passion was always the ocean. When I was a little girl I fell off a boat. It was a cruise my parents had booked. Whilst they were off hobnobbing with their elitist friends, I went off exploring and had an accident. I couldn’t swim so when I fell I sunk right away. I was under the water for just a few minutes before someone found me. During that time however I saw a sight that would change my life forever. It was a woman with long flowing red hair, but her bottom half was, well a fish.”

“A Mermaid” Tom said in surprise, still shocked that anything could actually surprise him after today.

“Yes, a Mermaid. She was carrying what looked like some kind of weapon. I can still remember her face even after all these years. She did nothing to help me. She saw I was there, but she just swam by me. My dad who’d been alerted to what happened, dove in and saved me.”

I was shaken by it at first understandably.” Florence continued. “I thought the Mermaid must just have been an illusion. As time went on however I became obsessed with the ocean. The Mermaid showed me that there was an entire world under the waves, one we’d hardly scratched the surface of. I wanted to know as much as I could. I learned how to swim, I would always go to the beach whenever I could, I’d beg my parents to book me on more cruises. A lot of people found my obsession with the sea rather peculiar, but I had a good life. When I was in my 20s I married a wonderful man named James and we had a beautiful girl named Daisy. Sadly however my obsession with ocean would doom me and my family.” She said with regret. “I would force my husband, who also came from a wealthy family to book us all a place on what was then the largest cruise liner ever built. The Titanic.”

Carlene could see where the story was going, though naturally the name Titanic meant nothing to the three children.

“Yes the famous doomed ship. What a lot of people don’t know is that it was actually sunk by a group of ocean dwelling Vampires. Sirens.”

“Sirens? You mean like what you are” Said Ashlei, somewhat nervously.

“I always believed that the Sirens were nothing more than a myth.” Carlene said

“Sadly not” Florence continued. “Sirens are among the oldest breed of Vampire on the earth. They have hypnotic voices which they used to lure their victims towards them. Older Sirens can place someone under their hypnotic control for days at a time. It doesn’t work on other supernatural creatures, like other breeds of Vampire” she said whilst looking at Carlene.

“The Sirens were able to take control of the Captain of the Titanic and force him to hit that ice berg. When it sunk there were plenty of humans for the blood suckers to pick off. A bigger feast than they would have ever had before or since, but to the world at large it would just look like the ship had gone down in an accident.

During the commotion I became separated from James and Daisy and trapped on the lower deck. I thought I was done for until I saw a mysterious figure emerge from the freezing water that flooded the corridor. I sometimes wish that I had just let the water sweep me away.

It was the leader of the Siren pack. He had been a Viking in life whose ship had been sunk by the Sirens. He must have seen some potential in me to turn me. What I don’t know, but I don’t even remember being turned. I just remember him grabbing me, sinking his fangs into my neck, and then the next thing I knew I was under the water. At first I paniced, but it didn’t take me long to realise that I had changed. I didn’t need to breath anymore, I didn’t even feel the cold.

I swam to surface and there I saw bits and pieces of people floating in an ocean that ran red with blood. The worst thing about it was I found the sight beautiful! There were a few people left, floating on rafts. I can remember one poor young girl in particular, the Sirens spent ages circling her like Sharks to torment her. When the rescue boat, the Carpathia arrived she tried to call out to them by they couldn’t hear her. As it started to leave she tried to jump into the water after the Carpathia, but the monsters tore her to pieces.

I’d stay with the Sirens for over 50 years after. I’d help them sink boats, capture Mermaids and Cecilia’s to prey on. I’d finally got a chance to be a part of the world that had fascinated me for so long, but it was a monster terrorizing it.”

“What made you change?” Carlene asked.

“One day my pack captured a Mermaid family. There was nothing special about that of course. We’d kidnapped, tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of Mermaids over the decades. The mother of this family however was the first Mermaid I had seen as a child.

I owed her nothing. She had let me sink when I was just a child, but looking at her after all of these years reminded me just for a second of the person I used to be. A second was all it took. I spent so many years burying everything that I actually was, allowing the Demon inside me to take me over that when I got that glimpse of my old life it was enough to destroy me.

I was able to feel pity, remorse and compassion for the first time in decades. After I rescued her I could feel my humanity slipping again, so I travelled back to the place I had lost it. The wreck of the Titanic.

I spent ages swimming round the wreck of the once deemed unsinkable vessel. It all came flooding back to me, no pun intended. The life I once had, the family I’d left behind. I spent ages in the cabin me and my family had spent the journey in.”

“I can relate” Carlene said softly.

“I know what that feeling is like”. Carlene continued. Its like you’re between life and death. Everything that was you is gone. Replaced by nothing but hunger and rage, but there’s still a tiny, teeny little grain of you in there. Enough to be aware of the nightmare you’re trapped in.”

“Yes” Florence said with regret. “That was it exactly. I couldn’t go back to being one of them so I tried to go back to my old life. I finally made it to New York. 50 years too late. It took me a long while to find out what happened to my family.

James had been shamed as a coward for the rest of his life. He wasn’t a coward. He did everything he could to save me, but when I was lost he had to save Daisy. He jumped onto one of the vessels with her. If he hadn’t then Daisy would have lost both her parents.

Sadly he was forever branded as a coward. Stupid brainless sheep. None of them could imagine the desperation and the terror of being on that ship as it went down. Even before the Sirens came. The water was burning to the touch. I’ve never felt anything like it.

It wasn’t just James who suffered from the accusations. Daisy did too. She was constantly bullied as the daughter of a coward at school, people refused to be her friend, or even associate with her because of who her dad was. She was always so devastated to read those horrible things about her father, to see him portrayed as a cowardly, pathetic villain in those stupid cheap movies they made about the Titanic.

Sadly I never got reunite with James and tell him that it wasn’t his fault what happened to me, and that I was proud of him for saving our daughter and making sure she had a good quality of life. He died in the mid 50s. I would get a chance to reunite with Daisy however.

She knew the truth about what happened on the Titanic. She was only 4 years old, but she had seen the monsters drag the others into the water on that fateful night. She had since moved to London and come to work for Rentros, an organisation designed to track down supernatural threats. When I first reunited with her in the late 60s she tried to kill me. It took her a long while to see that I was different, but we did eventually make peace, and we worked together for many years afterwards. She finally passed away in the early 80s.

I was by her bed when she died. I honestly felt like giving up then. No parent should have to outlive their child, but she told me to keep on going, and that I had a duty to use my powers to help others. I’m glad I kept my promise. Just a few years later I met the Circus Master and joined him and the others on their travels. I can never make up for the lives I destroyed when I was with the Sirens, but I can at least honour my daughters memory and promise to help others across all of time and space.”

“That’s really the only way we can beat the evil force inside us” Carlene said. “We can’t destroy it, but we can control it and make it a force for good in the world.”

“Yes well no offence intended ladies, but generally speaking I’m going to say that Vampires are not nice to know.” Said Keptis from the back.

Carlene could see he was repulsed at the very sight of the two women. He tried to hide it to some extent, but it was obvious that this strange, towering green warrior could barely stand to be in the presence of two Vampires.

“So what’s your story then?” Carlene asked, almost not sure if she should. Unlike Florence, Keptis clearly hadn’t made peace with his past.

“I am a native of the red planet, Mars. I was born close to several thousand years before your time Vampire” the last word he said with disdain.

“Back then Mars was a beautiful, green world teeming with life. My people built a thriving and advanced civilisation.”

“Amazing” Ashlei said from the back. “To think Mars was once like earth.”

Keptis seemed offended at the notion, but kept his cool. “Mars was nothing like earth. Your planet has been infested with Demons, Vampires and unnatural monsters for millenia. Our world never knew the touch of evil. We were a peaceful, rational people. We never knew magic, or the paranormal even existed. That would prove to be our downfall.

Several thousand years ago I was part of an expedition to visit the earth, our giant blue sister planet that had always perplexed and fascinated us. When we landed humanity was at a primitive stage. They mistook us for monsters that had been terrorizing their village when we first arrived. Of course we assumed that it was just the usual superstitious primitives. If only we’d listened to them. The pack of Vampires that had been preying on the village attacked our ship at night. Our lasers had very little effect on them, but we were able to take off before the monsters tore us to pieces. Unfortunately one of our team, our captain, Blasara was bitten. We thought it was just an infection and so we rushed him back to our planet to try and help him.

Sadly he turned after we got him back to Mars. He went on to infect another, and another, and another. Soon our planet was overrun with monsters. They slaughtered most of us and kept others alive in cages. Bled them like animals, tortured them for their own amusement. We tried to master magics to use against the Vampires, but it was too late.

We were such amateurs our magic often did more harm than good for our world. That was how I ended up on your planet. It was a spell, designed to send the evil of the Vampires back to where it came from, but again, my people were so inexperienced it back fired on us. Instead we were sent screaming across the solar system to your planet. Well actually only 3 of us made the trip. The magics were so crude and dangerous that they tore most of us apart. The three of us who were left floating through space meanwhile, the magics affected us in different ways. I was kept in a state of stasis and drifted aimlessly for years. I was the lucky one. Not only was I unaware for the entire journey, but the effects of the magic gave me a much longer life. I’m over 700 years old. Sadly of my two comrades, one was in a state of constant agony throughout the entire journey and driven insane, whilst another was turned into a hideous monster. When we arrived on the earth, I’d be forced to spend many years fighting both of them.

As the centuries rolled on I would stare up in the sky and think back to the world I had left behind. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to return, not that it would have made a difference anyway. Travelling across planets is something that only the most skilled, and powerful sorcerers can manage.

I couldn’t bare not knowing what became of my people. I felt like a traitor for not helping them. Still I couldn’t help but be relieved at being giving a chance to escape from the nightmarish war that had consumed my planet.

Many centuries later I met the Circus Master where I learned what had become of Mars. The Vampires completely destroyed it. Its now a dead, barren lifeless world. All traces of our once great civilisation are gone. Please forgive me eh, Carlene is it? I’m sure you are a hero in your own right. I trust the Circus Masters judgement on most things, but I can never fully accept you or Florence for what you are. I’m sorry.”

“As long as you don’t try to stake me, I don’t give a shit love.” Carlene said somewhat coarsely. Florence however was clearly more upset by Keptis’ words. He had always been somewhat cold to her, but the two had still always fought side by side, and even risked their lives for one another as all the Circus Folk had. Florence understood his hatred of Vampires, but she had hoped that after all this time he had come to see her as his friend as much as the others.

The Circus Master broke the awkward silence. “Well I guess that just leaves me then. I am the oldest of anyone here. My real name is Hartacor, but everyone just calls me Circus Master, because I hate Hartacor. I was born several hundred years before this era, during a time when my kind ruled over Europe. The Vandals.”

“Ah” Carlene said. “Now I know why I didn’t like you. No offence.”

“None taken.”

“Excuse me, what’s a Vandal?” Ashlei said.

The Circus Master explained. “A Vandal is type of Demon that feeds on the souls of the living. We were created from the Kardons, the same Demon race that gave rise to the Vampires. Our father was a rival of Khastran’s. Just as Vampires use their fangs to drain blood, then we use our claws” he said as his finger nails grew into massive long talons. “To suck out the souls of natural creatures. We too were created from a book bound in the Kardon’s flesh. There also hundreds of different species of Vandals just like Vampires, all with our own unique powers.

Vampires and Vandals despise one another. There’s a lot of bad blood shall we say there, but the hatred is also instinctual. It can be overcome, but it takes a lot of effort.” He continued.

“The Vampires and the Vandals have warred with one another for centuries, but in the time I was born, the 14th century, Vandals had won. They ruled over Europe and helped shape its history from about the 12th century to the late 17th. Even today their influence can still be found on our society. They are a dying empire however. By the early 20th century their entire empire will be gone.

Still when I was a man they wielded all the power over Europe. As a man I was nothing more than a petty criminal, but that’s why the Vandals turned me. Much like Vampires they desire to turn only the worst examples of humanity into their own kind. I was simply part of a cull of criminals to be turned into Vandals.

For years I was part of their army to hunt down and kill any remaining Vampires over Europe. We weren’t heroes. We just wanted humanity all to ourselves. I killed hundreds of innocent people.

Ironically however the Vampires would prove to be my salvation. A group of powerful Vampire Witches managed to capture my platoon of Vampire killers. They wanted to use magic to take control of our minds and use us as spies against the Vandals. However mind control magics have never worked on Vandals or indeed Vampires. We have a higher immunity to magic overall. Still they tried to tamper with our minds.

All of my comrades died in agony. Its strange in a way. They were monsters. We all were and they had tortured and killed innocent people. They absolutely deserved what the Vampires did to them, but we’d been together so long, even today I can’t help but feel regret at not being able to help them. I was the last they experimented on, and luckily for me it seemingly worked. I was under the Vampires control for a few months and helped to betray the Vandals. Eventually however the magics wore off, but they had an unintended effect on my mind. The Vampires clearly had no idea of the magics they were tampering with. The magics freed the Demon’s influence over my mind. Though to be honest I never really felt much remorse for my crimes for a while unlike Florence here. I wasn’t exactly a shining example of humanity remember. I became a mercenary, willing to work for anyone who would pay me. I even did some work for the Vampires.

Things would change for me however when I was assigned as part of a special mission to infiltrate and destroy the Vandals greatest weapon. This Circus!

The Vandals had access to magic from all over the continent they ruled. Over the centuries they hoped to build a vessel that could travel across time and space. They knew there were other worlds and they hoped to explore them and expand their power. Also with a time machine they believed they would become invincible. Any time they failed in an invasion, they would just go back and change it. If only they had known the truth about changing history they might not have bothered!

They disguised the time ship as a Circus in order to throw people off its real purpose, but my team were able to infiltrate the place they were building the time vessel. In the fight I managed to make it inside and in my panic I set it off.

It sent me far away across all of time and space to the Andromeda Galaxy. I’d spend years trying to get home, until I eventually met another time traveller. Professor Fang.

“Who?”

“He is a Vampire, just like you and Florence who managed to overcome his violent instincts. He was a great wizard and scientist in life. He built his own time machine in the shape of a giant bat. He was a truly remarkable man. It took the Vandals hundreds of years with access to magics all over Europe to build this, and after it was gone, they would never build another before their empire fell. Professor Fang built his on his own in less than a century! At first I didn’t like him. Not just because he was a Vampire. He was a genius who really loved to show it.

His companion, Lindsey I believe her name was, was lovely. Very sweet girl, but dear god was he a conceited show off. Still I do owe him a huge debt. He adjusted this machine so that it would only take us to places we needed to go, and would give us a vision of what we had to do. With all the reckless time travelling I was doing before, I’m amazed the Guardians never came after me. I didn’t bother to ever really get involved however before Fang fixed my ship. I guess that’s what saved me.

I only agreed to Professor Fang’s idea because I wanted some thrills. As time went on however I came to love what I was doing for different reasons. For hundreds of years I’d been a worthless Demon, and before that I’d been an even more worthless man. Now I could see that what I was doing was having a real positive difference. I never wanted to go back to being the person I was. I may not even be human anymore but I’m a much better man now than I ever was.”

“What about the boy” Carlene asked.

“The Strange Boy? None of us knew him in life. He is a member of the Jiang Shi breed of Vampire. They are among the strongest, most vicious and feral Vampires. They are as single minded as animals.” The Circus Master explained.

“Yes I know, I’ve encountered them before. Vicious buggers. Really tough to kill too.” Carlene said.

“When the Strange Boy was infected by a Vampire, his mother attempted to find a way to stop the infection from spreading. She used all of the magics she could, and it seemed to work at first, but the boy slowly as time went on became more Vampiric.

First he didn’t age. Even when his mother was old. Then he grew stronger than even the largest man in the villager. Then he started to lose his speech just like the Jiang Shi, and slowly his mind too. However underneath it all, he always retained some form of morality. Unlike the other Jiang Shi Vampires he never preyed on people, and fought other Demons and monsters. He became an ally of Master Kau, one of the greatest Jiang Shi killers of all time. When Kau passed on however he was forced to wander the fields of Beijing all alone until we found him.

I don’t know how much of the boy he once was is left there. He sometimes doesn’t respond to my commands. It seems he has the instinctual hatred of Vandals too. Lately he seems to be getting more violent, even with Florence who he always loved. I fear that the last ounce of humanity he had is slipping away and we may loose him.”

Florence became visibly upset at what the Circus Master was saying, but once again Carlene could see no response from the boy.

“Well now that we’ve all gotten to know each other a little better I suggest we do something about these new breeds of Vampires stalking London.” Carlene said in an awkward, chipper tone.

“I quite agree” replied the Circus Master. “Its time to pull our resources together, for if we don’t these Vampires could end up destroying London itself.”

To Be Continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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