Authors: Robert S. Wilson
Fading in Darkness
Empire of Blood Book Two
Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two
Copyright © 2013 Robert S. Wilson
All rights reserved.
To Heed Warning
The bastards had starved Jack for months. They'd kept him in the isolation of his cell without any blood. It was bad enough before, just the isolation, but the blood had kept him centered. It was good blood. Not quite as innocent as he would prefer, but it still kept him strong. Then, one day, the Imperial sentry just stopped bringing it, stopped coming around at all. It was now July and nothing but silence had accompanied Jack since April.
He focused in on the rough gray concrete and watched as a huge, panicked crowd of hundreds of thousands of microorganisms scattered at random across its surface. He heard the faint reverberated tapping of shoes against concrete somewhere on the floor above him. He followed them in his mind's eye as they entered the elevator. A clump of dirty shoulder-length hair fell from behind his ear as he listened. Whoever it was seemed to be coming down to his floor. The elevator door closed and the smell of human blood almost put him in shock as footsteps slowly became louder and louder. Then, for the first time in almost four months, he heard the peephole screech open.
"Cellmate number 536637?"
Jack looked up at the faint glow of light, his entire eyes black with bloodlust. "It bloody-hell sure won't be anybody else, now will it, you fucking
The sentry sighed and went silent, save for his heart seemingly jack hammering in Jack's ear. "The Emperor would like a word with you. You're to be
to a safe room to be briefed."
So that's why they'd starved him. Jack wouldn't be much of a threat if he didn't have any strength.
"Well, you can sod off and tell the
that he can bloody well fuck himself silly! And while you're at it, get me some goddamn blood." He might not have any strength, but Jack Draper always had plenty of spirit.
The peephole scraped shut and the sound of nervous echoing footsteps faded away. Jack knew when he had the upper hand in a situation, he'd seen it happen enough the past 500 or so years. He could smell it just like he could smell the blood in their veins. He caught himself then, biting his own arm again. He lapped up the two little crimson bubbles beginning to build and run down the small of his elbow. Fucking
, the lot of them, he'd break even with them soon enough. The next bloody one of them to open that ear-piercing fucking peephole would regret it.
But days went by and no one came. After the fifth day, he started to have doubts about the overpowering smell of bullshit and fear that had come from the last sentry. He went back to counting as he often did at times of lengthy boredom.
1,453,456. 1,453,457. 1,453,458
—the sound of the elevator distracted him as it neared his floor. He came to immediate attention as something snapped in his senses.
He could smell her. She couldn't have been any more than six years old. She was with
. He'd smelled that strange mix of aging human and ancestor blood enough times now to recognize it was accompanied by the Emperor.
So much for transporting him.
But why the little girl?
She was frightened, but trusting. He could smell that too. His sense of smell had always been strong but he was pretty sure it had more than doubled since he'd been stuck in this cell.
The peephole screeched that deathly pitch again and light spilled into the room in a thin, rectangular beam that spread across the floor of the cell and blinded Jack's eyes for a second.
"Ah... Mr. Draper. Nice to see you're still getting along."
"Now, now, Mr. Draper.
Weren't you ever taught it's unwise to bite the hand that feeds?" The Emperor's voice was scratchy, but with a hint of playfulness to it.
"Your bloody torturing me, aren't you? That's why you brought that lamb along, eh? Well, I can take it. I've starved a lot longer in shittier caves than this fucking rat hole."
"Mr. Draper, I have no intention of... torturing you.
Quite the opposite.
You see, I've come to offer you this young
as a gift.
A sort of down payment.
And if you'll be so kind as to hear what I have to offer, I think you'll find this gift to be quite a small offering indeed. At least, compared to what I'm willing to offer overall. Would you be willing to hear me out now, Mr. Draper?"
Jack was biting his arm again, trying to fight back the thirst. She was so innocent.
So precious and innocent.
And all he had to do was say yes, and even if the Emperor didn't plan to give her to him, he would take her. All he needed was for that slimy old bastard to open the door. The smell of death on him was almost as strong as the blood of that innocent child. It wasn't a smell Jack had ever noticed from any other living human.
"You see, Mr. Draper, I'm in need of a new assistant. I'm finding it hard to find someone loyal enough to do everything I tell them without letting their own emotions get in the way, but I think—"
"Piss off! You and I both know
and well you're no god. You'll get no bloody loyalty or worship from me."
"Mr. Draper, I never said I was looking for a new acolyte. I have plenty of followers. I need an
And a loyal one.
You needn't believe in my divinity to be loyal. It's very simple, actually; you do what I say to the letter and I provide you with more like her.
more like her."
Jack had torn a gash out of his arm as he listened to the Emperor’s words. He pulled his teeth from the wound and concentrated on the pain as his flesh began to heal. He was hungry enough to drain them both and thirst for more but something about that dead smell coming from the Emperor held him back. It was revolting. Human blood couldn't always be as precious as the rare, delectable drink of the innocent, but it was barely ever revolting.
He found himself nearly as intrigued as he was hungry.
"And precisely what is it your
does, Mr. Emperor, sir?"
"A great many things.
Not the least which would be killing.
Lots of killing.
Would you say you're suited for such a job, Mr. Draper?"
"Bloody hell if I'm not. I suppose you've done some digging, or else you wouldn't be knocking on my
"Yes. I did indeed choose you with a certain criteria in mind. What do you say, Mr. Draper? Do we have a deal? All the innocent blood you can handle in exchange for being my loyal assistant?"
Jack leapt at the door and put his arm through the peephole, stretching the metal opening. But his hand grasped empty air and an even stronger arm grabbed hold of his own and snapped it clean at the elbow. Pain exploded from his dangling limb as he stood stuck against the door.
"Nice try, Mr. Draper. As you can see, I am certainly not in need of a bodyguard. I can protect myself just fine. What I do need is an assistant. And if you value your life, I'd suggest you take my offer before I take the pulse from your throat."
Jack didn't understand. He had moved with the same speed as if he hadn't been starved but still it hadn't been enough. It took all the strength he had left and now he was spent. And still the hunger coursed through him, making him quiver at the smell of the child's blood. The Emperor held his arm in that broken position, preventing it from healing.
"All right, all right, I'll fucking do it, you fucking bastard."
The Emperor released his arm at once and let out a sigh. "You see, Mr. Draper? There wasn't any need for all that show of opposition, now was there?"
For once in his long life, Jack held his tongue. When his arm finished healing, he pulled it back into the cell and rubbed it where the break had been mere seconds before. He heard an array of mechanical workings from within the door. Then, they were abruptly cut short by a single echoing thunder of metal as the door visibly shifted from its locked position.
Although Jack had set aside his ambitions to escape and would actually give this deal a chance, he couldn't help having an impulse to try and take a bite out of the Emperor while he had the chance. The door slid open and the Emperor walked in without a hint of fear or concern. The little girl appeared to be in some sort of trance as she played with a porcelain doll in a red dress and matching sandals.
Jack watched her with black, watering eyes and his mouth went even drier with thirst. The Emperor leaned down and whispered into the girl's ear. She looked up at Jack and smiled. Jack shivered. She was so innocent. She was made even more innocent by the fact that she was oblivious to the danger surrounding her.
Jack knelt down before her and reached his hand out to her. Her smile grew and she laid her tiny hand in his. He gripped it gently and spoke.
"Now, what might your name be, little lass?"
"Samantha," she said then looked at the floor shyly. She began to sway back and forth, still grinning all the while.
So much life in her.
It was taking everything he had now to hold back. But that's when he saw it. She looked up at the Emperor as if for approval and Jack could see then that he did have her in a trance.
"Well, it was nice meeting you, Samantha. Do come back and visit some time." He turned away stiffly then and walked toward the corner of the room to show his denial of the Emperor's offering.
"What are you waiting for, Mr. Draper? Isn't she just what you've wanted all these years you've been cooped up in here?" A good deal of impatience was slipping into the Emperor's voice now.
"She is, but I won't have you brainwashing my food, eh?"
There was a loud scream from the little girl and before Jack could react, he heard a snap and the screaming went silent. He turned to see the girl's body lying lifeless in the middle of the floor and the Emperor standing over her and staring at Jack with equally black eyes. His anger at what the man had just done overwhelmed his curiosity as to whether the Emperor really was a man at all.
He leapt at the Emperor, going right for his throat. Before he could come anywhere near him, he felt two clawed hands grab hold of him and thrust him back into the concrete wall of his cell. The Emperor stood there holding Jack against the wall and staring right into his face.
"I'm not usually a believer in second chances, Mr. Draper. But I'm willing to make an exception with you.
"I'll be back... eventually. Enjoy your little hunger strike while it lasts and I'll bring you another offering when the time is right. For now, remember this: I could have killed you twice and yet I have not. I have great confidence that we'll be able to work together, but I will only bend so far."
He let go of Jack and straightened up his white robe, brushing it off and loosening his stance. "Good day, Mr. Draper." Jack slid down the wall holding his ribs. Caesar turned and walked out of the cell, taking care to step over the young girl's body as he went. The thick metal door closed behind him, returning the cell to its original state of complete darkness. He was sure then. The Emperor was definitely not human.