The Vampire Lord Morpiér was dead, or returned to light, as some vampires called the cessation of their eternal walk. It was not an uncommon occurrence for vampires to die, not with the numerous hunters that culled the less restrained of the breed when they were still young, and relatively powerless. What was uncommon, was a vampire to be killed that had walked the earth for more than four-thousand years, as Morpiér had. Yet as uncommon as it was, his remains lay upon the stone floor of his mansion; a heap of dark ash festooned with the ancient jewels that had been the mark of his station.
He had been discovered by one of his servants, who had set out to remind his liege that a werewolf envoy from the Lupus Naturae was soon to arrive upon the island. When no answer had come from Morpiér’s chambers, the servant had entered, and found the remains of the vampire lord swirling in the sea breeze coming through the open balcony. The servant had raised the alarm, but there was nothing for the elite cadre of guards to do. There was no murderer to be found, and even more puzzling, no evidence that there had been a struggle at all. The entirety of the small island had been searched with unnatural precision, and yet nothing out of place was ever discovered.
Lacking any evidence to explain Morpiér’s returning to light, it was the unfortunate werewolf envoy that had suspicion thrust upon his shoulders, as he arrived just an hour after the body was discovered. The small boat of werewolves was detained by the guards, and immediately accused of the assassination. From that moment, the first domino fell from the precarious stack of diplomatic relations that had been maintained between werewolf and vampire for over four centuries. Word spread like fire through the Veiled World, and tensions rose across the globe as whispers of another vampire war carried with the news of Morpiér’s murder.
Only the swift and decisive actions of both the Court of Cain (the vampiric council of lords), and the Lupus Naturae (the lycanthropic governing body), halted the march towards another blood feud between the two sides. It was an uneasy peace however, and the need for definitive answers regarding Morpiér was becoming paramount.
A much more secretive issue had also arisen along with Morpiér’s demise: he had been one of the protectors of the Pieces of 8. These eight magical objects were among the most important artifacts in vampire history, with each piece containing the codex of lineages for the eight original vampire lords. These lineages dated back to the human ancestors of each lord, and with this information, descendants of the vampire lords’ human bloodlines could be traced. While the task would be a monumental endeavor, if the Pieces of 8 were ever brought together, and these human descendants found, an individual could theoretically find these human descendants and use their blood to destroy the vampire lords, and thusly, all of their offspring.
These dangers forced each piece to be held separately by a lord of the Court of Cain. As a failsafe, should the lord perish, a second vampire--one not seated within the Court--was given knowledge of the whereabouts of that lord’s piece. These seconds were sworn to a powerful spell of secrecy, disabling them from speaking of their solemn duty to anyone save the lord that entrusted them with the honor. The system had never faltered in all the centuries since the creation of the Pieces of 8, and never had a second been called upon to take possession of a piece. Until now…
Edvard Moraine stood upon the bow of the yacht, his eyes leveled at the approaching lights of Vrachonisida Sofrana. The small island was located deep in the Aegean Sea, evenly spaced between the Greek mainland, and Turkey. It was a picturesque island, with craggy cliffs of igneous rock holding up manicured groves of olive trees, dense grass, and the spires of the ancient stone monastery that Morpiér had claimed centuries ago. It was an island that could’ve been found upon the pages of a travel agent’s brochure, that is, if the island could be found by any normal human in the first instance.
Edvard admired the monastery as the yacht drew up to the island’s docks, its stonework towers reaching majestically into the night sky. The structure had always reminded him of Morpiér; imposing, yet warm, wise, and tastefully refined. The news of his progenitor’s death had come as a shock to Edvard, and one he never fathomed hearing. When Morpiér had called upon him to be his second a thousand years ago, he had agreed instantly, thinking that such a task would be wholly unnecessary, as Edvard always maintained that his maker would live until the world itself was snuffed out.
Now, here he found himself, ascending the steep flagstone steps from the cliffs to the monastery, and for the first time in his life, Morpiér would not be there to greet him. If he had the ability to cry, he would have welcomed the tears. As he turned into the great room of the mansion however, Edvard made sure to keep his face stoic, not wanting any of Morpiér’s stone-faced guards to see him become emotional.
He made his way through the great room, ignoring the priceless art, and lost antiquities that filled the grand space. Representatives of the Court of Cain were everywhere, attempting to glean any shred of evidence as to how such a powerful vampire lord met his final demise. Like Morpiér’s guards, these other vampires made no effort to question or halt him; they all recognized him as the lord’s favored child, and they left him to move freely throughout the monastery.
Edvard found his way to the chambers, his feet taking him there without any conscious thought. When he came to the place where Morpiér’s ashes had lain, he could still perceive the scent of his maker lingering within the Mediterranean air. He paused above the stones, staring down upon the blank stone, his eyes looking for any remnant of the scorched remains. He saw none however; the agents of the Court had been thorough. A second wave of sadness gripped him, and if he possessed a beating heart, he knew it would be throbbing with anguish.
He made no sound to reflect his roiling emotions, only looking up to see the hazy horizon of the Aegean sprawling like an infinite ocean of ink beneath the night sky, framed with the balcony’s arched doorway. A deep sigh escaped his lips. His green eyes left the balcony, and moved around the expansive bedroom. Like the rest of the monastery, it was filled with ancient trinkets and artwork from across every time and every corner of the globe. Along the wall adjacent to the balcony was a massive fireplace, its hearth filled with blazing logs that cast a warm glow throughout the room.
Edvard was alone, facing the fire, watching the embers disappear into the chimney above on wings of gentle heat. A second sigh escaped him, this one more tremulous. The fire reminded him of Morpiér as well. There was no point in waiting anymore; his task to his maker required completion. With soft steps Edvard made his way passed the fire, to a corner of the room where tapestries hung in majestic folds over priceless sculptures and craftsman-work tables. Upon one of these tables stood a plain wooden clock, its weights and hands still from lack of winding. The clock was almost out of place standing amidst trinkets of fine metalwork and rich mosaic tile, and when Edvard reached for it, it seemed as if it leaned to him, like a child eager for its mother’s arms.
The clock was heavy and musty, and Edvard regarded it for a time, a smile creeping onto his olive-skinned face. It was a happy thought to remember what this seemingly insignificant timekeeper held within it. He could recall the day as if it had been yesterday, standing here with Morpiér as the vampire lord placed his Piece of 8 within the clock’s base. The piece itself had been a testament to Morpiér, and Edvard’s smile broadened as he pictured it. With consummate care, he held the clock upside down, and pushed against the board at its bottom. The thin sheet of wood squeaked in protest as it slid away, revealing a small chamber beneath.
Edvard froze. The clock hung in his hands as they began to shake. The weights inside tinkled like bells as the quaking of his hands became more violent. At last the clock fell from his hands, crashing into the stone floor with a chaotic clattering of splintering wood and wrenching brass. Edvard’s hands came up to the level of his eyes. They clenched and unclenched, the emptiness between his fingers almost painfully evident.
The piece was gone.
Three days later
Atticus Mac Cléirich slammed the phone down upon its base. His crimson eyes flitted to and fro, reflecting the whirring gears of thought happening behind them. He stood, moving to his office window. His hands found the hip pockets of his charcoal grey, three-piece suit, as he stared across the Charles River to the red brick of Harvard University’s boathouse. Normally the view intrigued him, and he often found himself viewing the skullers row past the invisible façade of the Bain & Hoyle Company, Boston Office. Today was not beginning as a normal day however. For instance, the company’s vampire founder, Archibald Bain, had never called him personally.
He growled slightly, his mind made up. Atticus marched from his office, and over to where Zoey, the floor receptionist sat at her desk. She looked up at him with the hollow eye sockets of a human skull, and her bare jaw bone clicked together in what Atticus could only assume was a smile.
“Can I help you Mr. Mac Cléirich?” Zoey said with a bubbly feminine voice. She also managed to toss her blond ponytail as she talked, which was the only human feature left on an otherwise completely bare, skeletal body. As a demon, Atticus was no stranger to the myriad creatures of the Veiled World, but he had to admit that reanimated skeletons still clinging to their human likeness was something that he found slightly unnerving.
“Yes Zoey,” he said, “if you would send out an immediate message to my agents that there is to be an urgent meeting in the conference room in fifteen minutes, I would appreciate it.”
Zoey tilted her skull, and lifted her shoulders slightly in a move that was still flirtatious despite the lack of flesh. “Absolutely, Mr. Mac Cléirich.”
Atticus scowled slightly before turning on his feet and making his way to the conference room. He grabbed a pot of coffee and poured himself a heaping cup before flopping into the chair at the head of the large table. Today was going to be a busy day.