Raven Unleashed

WITHIN THE DARKNESS

Within the darkness
she wept,
her sobs the echoes
of happiness long left,
tears bitter cold
like the burbling trickle
of a polluted mountain stream,
horrific silence thick and deadly,
the acrid scent of something heartless,
an evil stranglehold around her neck….

except….
a fearful scream,

from somewhere near,
possibly within and yet….
her icy cold skin kisses walls,
surrounding and claustrophobic,
the air demonically stale,
so impossible to breathe at all.
Frantically reaching out, fingertips
scraping something hard above her head,
as well as to the left and the right,
mind shattered with thoughts now necrophobic….

paralyzing fear….
of corpses now long dead,

suddenly a thin shaft of light,
an offered hand
approaching her startled face,
skeleton thin and bony white,
long and tapered fingers extending,
hooked nails appearing like claws.
Palm now open and beckoning
toward shadows of flickering candlelight.
Being lifted from the satin-lined
coffin in which she had slept….

terrifying fright….
mind so near to breaking,

a tall, imposing looking man dressed
all in black,
long, sharp fangs peeking between
thin lips, face craggy and pasty white.
There arose a burning hunger, but knew not
the reason why…so she asked with fright,

“Where am I? What am I?”
“You are now vampire!” Mikhail whispered.

Her hunger now the need for blood,
his stare a one of beast-like desire.
Deep within the darkness
she now forever wept….

RAVEN UNLEASHED

Chapter 1

(Novel to be released in 2012

Written by Kerry L. Marzock

Mikhail sensed them first. It was a sinister, terrifying danger which he had not experienced in a very long time, something that made his stark, white skin crawl. He wasn’t sure at this point who, what, where, or how many there were. Just that they were near, the stench of vampire hunters told him so. Once that insipid odor crawled into your system, it was a warning an older vampire never forgot. It was the reek of death which all vampire hunters emitted.

He also knew it was not one of the special Hunters from the Mountains of Zhitheron like the ultra-provocative and extremely deadly Aylissea. If it was, then he most likely would’ve been dead by now. Mikhail had gotten to know her somewhat while she recuperated from severe injuries at Master Joshua’s mansion in the aftermath of the monstrous battle on the grounds of Eastern State Penitentiary. Even though she was distant and wary, he still found her quite unique and enticingly interesting.

Joshua, on the other hand, was totally enthralled with her, something Mikhail and Renaldo got quite a kick out of. What a dichotomy, the greatest and most feared Hunter to walk the earth connected to a Master Vampire who was more than unique, he was absolutely deadly. Not to mention that he was extremely erotic in numerous, very kinky ways. Vampires didn’t have to please anybody so they did whatever they wished. Only stronger masters, or the vicious Hunters, could stop them. Besides, being dead and living for hundreds of years became quite boring too many times.

He smiled slightly, thinking what a twosome they might’ve made if she had not been called to venture forth upon another mission. It was rather ironic that she had battled to the death with Roberto from Seattle, been allowed to heal in Joshua’s lavish lair, and now most likely had been called forth to possibly deal with other rogue beasts, most probably vampires. Mikhail wondered how someone so beautiful and sexy could slay the beast without a second thought. He figured she was just born to be deadly.

No, these hunters he now smelled roamed the planet searching for blood suckers. Their only purpose in life was to slay as many as possible, to rid the world of what they felt was a life form lower than vermin. They were trained as young men, sometimes from late childhood. Their teachers were hardened, battle-savvy, severely scarred soldiers in the war against vamps. Trained in the art of weaponry, taught how to kill in the most torturous of ways, skilled in deception and stealth, slaying creatures of the night was all they thought of. Well, there was plenty of drinking, drugs, and women of ill repute, but they certainly needed their diversions to help erase for a little while the death left in their wake. Traveling great distances, venturing directly into the vampire’s lethally dangerous territories, incurring numerous and severe injuries as part of their morbid profession, these were necessary evils to satisfy their savage cravings. That hunger was simply to destroy as many devil beasts as possible, at least while the hunter continued to take a breath. Feeling they were God’s warriors, they took their mission deadly seriously.

Mikhail stood quiet and watchful against the long mahogany bar at Night Shift, one of the few night spots in Philadelphia where vampires, werewolves, and weregune, not to mention other extremely strange characters could go and unwind, to relax and feel somewhat safe being what they were. Well, it wasn’t really feeling safe as humans might consider the term. Even other were-beasts occasionally showed up like a bear now and then, cats of assorted flavors, birds of prey, etc. Those evenings often became pissing contests, no telling what might happen. After all, there was not much a vampire had to fear, not many predators ferocious enough or smarter, especially to a sub-Master like Mikhail. After the battle storm had cleared away from Eastern State, Joshua had performed the rare ceremony to raise both Mikhail and Renaldo to the status of sub-Master Vampire. However, soon the day would come when both of them would need to move on, develop their own clan and declare mastery over a territory. A city could not hold the power and ego of three Masters and Philly clearly belonged to Joshua.

He scoured the dark room with an intense gaze, totally able to see great detail even through the darkness. Pink candles in heart-shaped glass holders sat in the center of each round table. Two large chandeliers hung from a high ceiling, their flickering lights resembling stars within the midnight sky. Windows were boarded up tightly. Only one along the rear wall was ever allowed to be opened during daylight hours. Privacy was important to those who came to Night Shift. A team of very large were’s manned the front door, especially on those evenings when business was brisk. Not everyone gained admittance either, for if you didn’t look the part, then no way did one gain entrance.

The patrons of such a strange establishment upon this very night were indeed quite an odd, mixed lot. For sure there were several other vampires sitting quietly along the back wall in shadows, appearing unobtrusive while considering how tasty the human fodder within the bar might be. A handful of werewolves he had seen inside the club before strutted around, oozing with animalistic sexuality. Werewolves were known for their dislike of clothing, as well as their love of nudity. What the hell, they were wild beasts inside that human skin. Only having to live among society made them dress at all.

Eight equally strange goth regulars, five young girls and three older males, sat around two tables dressed all in black, including their painted lips with eyes lined so darkly they almost resembled rabid raccoons. They loved just being near this shit, hoping vampires did exist, secretly fearful that it was true, somewhat anxious for the feel of fangs upon their necks. Surprisingly, the bar was dotted with real live humans who had no idea what the place really was, just that they thought the ambience was so cool. Every so often a wolf den had to lure in a few innocent lambs for the slaughter.

Benjamin, the owner of Night Shift, made it quite clear to new and returning beasts that there was no blood letting allowed within his establishment. He was weregune, part of Tabitha’s pack, and he absolutely did not want police pushing and prodding around the place because some innocent victim had been killed or injured. He told them time and time again, make contacts if you wanted to, select prey if you wished, have fun and party hearty, but take their bloody violence outside beneath the stars.

Mikhail began to wonder if his acute senses had been accurate. It was clearly apparent that no hunters were present inside the bar. Still, his radar remained taut and on high alert. Finishing off his double vodka martini, he motioned the bartender over, making a quick sign with his right hand, long fingernails then impatiently clacking atop the bar. He dearly needed something stronger to curb his evident nervousness.

The extremely tall, beefy bartender named Jacobus, a werewolf down on his luck who Benjamin had befriended, carefully scanned the dark room searching for anyone appearing like they might be an undercover cop. Not spying any, he quickly knelt to open a small door in the wood-planked floor. Below was a hidden cooler that contained fresh blood in small, four ounce, dark blue bottles, no labels attached. It wasn’t something a person might normally purchase at a local grocery store. None of those who drank the contents cared where the blood came from. Just that it was available.

Placing a hundred dollar bill onto the counter, Mikhail greedily reached for the open container and gulped it down quickly, closing his eyes in pure rapture. Allowing the final precious drops to fall upon his long tongue the vampire opened his eyes as a soft, delighted moan escaped his lungs. It would have to do until later that night when he might be lucky enough to feel hot blood from a living victim gush down his throat. He burped and smiled over at the bartender. Adding a twenty dollar bill as tip, Mikhail spun around and decided it was time to venture outside, lurking danger or not.

Even though he slept during daylight hours, he knew it had been another hot July day, the third in a row. That made it an official heat wave according to that deliciously sweet, blonde weather girl on channel six. He always had the news taped so he could watch it after his early feeding. Mikhail wondered what it would feel like to plunge his hungry fangs into her slim, exquisite neck. Maybe some night soon he would have that pleasure, never really knowing who his next victim might be. He was not a stalker, preferring to partake of prey as it became available. To him it was more exciting that way. Even though he loved the thrill of the hunt, stalking to him was more perverted.

It was now well after midnight, actually nearing three a.m. so mostly the only people lolling about and staggering along these narrow South Philly streets were drunks, hookers, and beggars. He had his fill of the low life’s in this area anyway so tonight he had the urge to spread his wings uptown, possibly seek out a beautiful redhead among high society that he had met previously at a party, an eventful evening enjoyed by all. Her blood had been intoxicating to say the least. He tasted it for nights afterward.

He sniffed the air, instantly aware that the danger he had felt before was in fact nearby. Stopping in the middle of the street Mikhail became completely still letting every noise and smell overtake him. His back tightened while his fists became clenched. The clatter of a tin can, something metal anyway, echoed off the brick walls. Maybe it was a rat, but more probably the enemy. It had been close to eighty years ago when he was nearly overtaken by hunters down a dark alleyway in Moscow. If it weren’t for Dimitri, his human servant at the time, he would’ve clearly perished, probably staked and burned. Sadly, his servant lost his life that night in a most heinous way, but at least Mikhail had escaped….barely.

Spinning around, he hissed into the darkness, the stench of the hunter becoming more apparent. There was a low, sickening laugh arising from the deep shadows, a malicious sound that grated against the vampire’s spine. Suddenly, the sound of something metal rang through the air as Mikhail felt a heavy chain encircle his neck. Another one whipped out of the darkness before him to snake around his left ankle. Both tightened immediately as he was yanked violently to the ground. Flailing wildly, he grabbed the thick chain around his neck to try and break it in half. Not possible, it was much too strong, apparently formed of something other than normal chain links.

Two ominous, shadowy forms emerged from the darkened walls, their long black coats and wide-brimmed hats hiding most of their bodies and faces. Two more chains whistled sharply through the air, one attaching securely around his right calf, that leg continuing to kick about wildly. The other encircled his left forearm, instantly tightening and then yanking it backwards, nearly popping the limb from its shoulder socket. Mikhail battled bravely to escape, but it was no use. Who ever worked the chains were professional, knowing exactly what they were doing and how to ensnare securely. He hissed and growled, rolling on the cement in the middle of the street, like a wolverine might do when caught in a steel-jawed trap. Enough noise was being made, but certainly not heard by anybody simply because nobody wanted to get involved. Citizens never did, mostly in fear of retribution. Better to be silent than end up with a bullet in the head.

The only limb he had free now was his right arm so he used it to thrash out angrily at anything that moved, long claws seeking to tear apart flesh or bone. One of the shadowy figures approached and then laughed. It was a loathsome sound that sent fearful chills throughout the vampire’s entire body. Holding out his arm from the long coat, Mikhail saw a large, three-inch, brightly shining cross made of silver that dangled from a thick chain. It was apparent no matter how hard he fought that his life would end tonight.

“How does it feel vampire?” came a deep, gravely voice from beneath the wide hat brim. “So many nights of depravation and the slaughter of innocent people are now at an end it seems. Your miserable death will now become a warning to those of your monstrous kind within this city, especially dear Joshua.”

At the mention of his Master’s name, Mikhail tensed. So the hunters were solely not here specifically for him, but rather using him as bait to somehow draw Joshua out into the open. Mikhail fought harder to the point of exhaustion, but still could not even crack the chains made of some unbreakable material. Growling and hissing, he spat at the closest shadowy figure dressed in black, he of the large chain dangling in his hand.

“You can take my life hunter, but you will never get to Joshua. In fact, my death will only infuriate him to the point of insane rage,” Mikhail hissed back. “I’ve lived a good, long life so take me now if you must, but may you rot in Hell, all of you.”

The laugh became louder and was then joined by at least four or five other hunters. The vampire felt his limbs begin to stretch tighter as the chains were pulled by unseen hands. The pain was intense, but Mikhail would not succumb and permit them to see his misery. The metal links around his neck began to tighten so much that he choked and gasped, feeling that his head was about to pop off. His mouth was open wide, vicious fangs gleaming beneath the streetlights, long tongue hanging loosely.

What the hunters did not know though was that being made Master by Joshua gave the two vampires a mental connection so he used it quickly while he had the time.

Joshua, it is Mikhail. I have been attacked by hunters, at least five, possibly more. Telling you where I am will not serve any purpose for I fear that I will be dead long before you could get here. I do not want your existence put in jeopardy just to save me. Be aware, however, that danger has arrived in your domain. My dying wish is that you avenge my death and slaughter these bastards.

The large man standing before him moved forward and then pushed the hat brim higher on his forehead. His features were dark, haggard, with cheeks and chin severely scarred from many previous battles. A large handle-bar moustache hung from his upper lip. However, it was his eyes that surprised Mikhail the most, or rather the lack thereof. The hunter basically had one eye, the other one containing nothing but an empty socket. The one good eye was the brightest blue Mikhail had ever seen. The hunter opened his mouth in a wicked grin. Within the mouth appeared two rows of razor-sharp teeth made of silver, obviously used to bite and tear vampire flesh apart. Just another weapon in case he became somewhat defenseless.

Mikhail could not move even a fraction of an inch as he waited for his limbs to be torn away from his body. He felt it was quite obvious what these killers were here for. The hunter moved forward and reached down to grab hold of the vampire’s long hair.

“Enjoy your last night blood sucker. At least no other innocent victim will die by your evil fangs this evening. You will never again steal their precious blood, something we humans need in order to go on living,” the hunter known as Rocca growled, spitting into Mikhail’s face.

Bending lower he placed the silver chain and cross over the vampire’s head. Releasing the metal he then grabbed hold of Mikhail’s shirt and angrily tore it away to expose the beast’s white skin which appeared alabaster in the moonlight. As the silver chain struck the skin, an acrid smelling smoke immediately began to rise. The burning was incessant, so much so that Mikhail could not withstand the pain. He screamed in agony as the silver cross began to melt the skin away, sinking deeper into his chest.

“Move this piece of shit vermin now,” yelled Rocca. “We need to have the beast prepared for when the sun rises shortly.”

Mikhail felt his body begin to slide down the street, the pain already so intense from the fiery cross and his nearly severed limbs that he was on the edge of losing any sanity he still held onto. At the end of the narrow street was a small open field where a demolished building had once stood, now just a pile of rubble and broken bricks.

The hunters slid Mikhail’s body over the debris, his head and body bouncing roughly above the rocks and shattered cement. At this point, he was not aware of anything real other than he was about to die. He sensed himself being hauled upon something wooden as the chains around his feet and forearms were tightened severely. Then his hands were spread apart and Mikhail heard hammering before he realized that silver spikes were being smashed into his palms. As he lay there secured now to what appeared to be a large wooden cross he felt movement above him. Opening his pain wracked eyes he saw Rocca hovering just above his chest. In his hand was a large wooden stake and mallet.

“Sorry Mikhail that this had to be so severe, but alas, we need to make sure we get Joshua’s attention,” he stated firmly, but yet a voice that seemed filled with evil laughter. “Do you think we will?”

Achieving no answer other than a tortured groan, he sighed. “Well, it’s apparent that we will. In fact, your destruction will loudly hail our presence to your evil brethren.”

Placing the sharp pointed end of the stake over Mikhail’s chest he raised the mallet and brought it down heavily with a loud thud. The stake sank deeply into the vampire’s chest, searching for the heart. Rocca continued to pound the large end of the stake…once, twice, and then again. With the first blow, what was left of Mikhail’s voice rose into the night, pain and agony bouncing off the walls in this rundown neighborhood.

A large wall at the edge of the field faced east, nothing to block the hungry sun as it would soon begin rising in the early dawn. Rocca reached for a piece of brick and motioned one of his comrades to come closer.

“Open his mouth very wide. We need to do this before raising the cross.”

Wearing extra thick gloves, the other hunter grabbed Mikhail’s chin and nose, pulling in opposite directions, making sure that he stayed clear of the vampire’s fangs. Even near death, a night creature could still issue a vile, nasty bite.

Moving closer, Rocca shoved the brick inside the vampire’s mouth. Reaching into a large pocket he took out a large needle with very thick thread hanging from one end. Leaning down again he roughly shoved Mikhail’s mouth together, one of the fangs breaking off and falling to the ground. After sewing the lips together, he moved back and stood quietly for a moment to appreciate his artwork. He and his dangerous henchmen then made the sign of the cross over their chests and looked skyward. They actually felt extremely religious at that point, feeling they were ridding the earth of one more evil.

Rocca then motioned for the horrifying visage to be lifted and then shifted to lean against the graffiti-covered wall. It was ironic that one of the figures drawn happened to be something monstrous looking. A satisfying job now accomplished, another good deed for society well done, their shadowy forms disappeared quietly into the surrounding neighborhood of identical row homes. They would hunt again and very soon.

All that stood now in the empty field was the roughly constructed wooden cross containing the broken and torn body of Mikhail. All that remained to be done was the sun rising, a hungry light caressing the vampire’s body which would then quickly burst into flames. It would be a clear warning to Joshua and all vampires within Philadelphia. Beware for the dogs of Hell had now been unleashed upon the City of Brotherly Love.

* * * * * * * * * *