“Dawn? May I come in?” Night asked, politely knocking on my door.
I fell back, scrambling to get away from the door, away from the thing on the other side, an inscription providing light for the room throwing crazy shadows over my face.
“No! You can’t enter!” I yelled out, trying to remember my vampire lore.
“That’s how it works right? I don’t give you permission and you can’t come in right?” I asked, only before realizing the monumental stupidity of asking my enemy for advice on his weaknesses.
I heard a deep sigh from the other side of the door.
“I am not entering because the place is yours, and I value your privacy. I would not intrude upon you, especially when you are distressed. Would you at least be willing to discuss the latest events with me, so I may understand what has transpired?”
“I’d feel a lot better with more people around!” I said, suddenly feeling like a hostage negotiator. Except I was also the hostage.
Ok, think. There was one door to the area. If Night went through the door, I’d be able to get Radiance beams on him, no trouble.
Except he was so high level compared to me that he could probably just shrug it off, even if I went for the eyes.
The realization was almost freeing.
I was a dead woman if Night wanted me to be a dead woman. My only chance at survival, at freedom, was to make Night happy.
System, oh System, hear my prayer. Give me a skill to make Night happy with me, give me a skill to help me survive this!
[*ding!* Congratulations! You’ve unlocked the General Skill [Tasty Blood]!]
You have got to me kidding me.
I rejected the skill. I was hoping for something more social, like [Silver Tongue] or something.
[*ding!* Congratulations! You’ve unlocked the General Skill [Tastes like Chicken]!]
[*ding!* Congratulations! You’ve unlocked the General Skill [Mid-Night Snack]!]
This clearly wasn’t helping. Back to hostage negotiations.
“How do I know you won’t just eat or kill me at the end?” I said, starting to think a bit more.
More silence from the other side of the door. Night’s habit of long pauses between speaking was going to be the death of me.
“I am Night first. I am the leader of the Sentinels second. Protector of humanity third. Guardian of Remus fourth. Patriarch of a vampire lineage fifth. You are Dawn. You are a Sentinel, one of mine. I place you, and your well-being, above one of my idiot descendants.”
“What?” I said, confusion clear in my voice.
More exasperated sighing.
“Could I please come in, or could you please come out, and we can discuss this face-to-face? It is difficult speaking to a door.”
Fine. Operation ‘Make Night Happy In A Way That Doesn’t Get My Blood Sucked’ is a go.
I opened the door to find Night a respectful distance away, clearly trying to not spook me. He looked me up and down, and discreetly coughed.
“Ahem. Would you like a few minutes to straighten yourself up?”
Mmmm. He had a point. I was a hot mess.
I ducked back into my room, splashed water on my face – my suite had everything, luxurious bed, a living room, a fully stocked bathroom with a small bath and everything, basically a penthouse suite on Pallos, magical inscriptions providing all the luxuries.
I probably would’ve had this life, or a similar one, married to Kerberos. No wonder my parents had thought it was good for me. He was dead now, and I had it anyways, on my own merits. Much better.
I finished washing up, changing into a new, simple tunic. I put my dress away somewhat carefully, unsure if I’d ever wear it again. Good memories and bad linked to it.
I left the room, and found Night in the central living room, having claimed a large, plush chair for himself. I took a recliner on the other side.
“First, while you are clearly upset, I would like to check – you are physically ok, correct?” He asked.
I shot him a withering look.
“I’m a stupidly powerful healer. Duh I’m ok physically.”
“If I may pry, what has occurred to make you so upset?”
I glared at him, then realized he had no way of knowing.
“Vampire. Tried to take a bite.” I sourly said, expecting some sort of retribution.
He hissed, and I realized why it had sent such deep fear into me the first time I’d heard it, when he was mad. He was an apex predator, and I was his prey.
“Which one of my idiot progeny tried to take a bite out of one of my Sentinels?” He hissed in anger. “Edward? Vlad? Lincoln?”
I blinked. I hadn’t realized there were so many – but then again it made sense.
“Jaclyn.” I said.
Night blinked. Then blinked again.
A long silence stretched between us, much longer than usual. Shit. Was she a favorite of Night’s or something?
The silence continued to stretch on. Had I somehow broken Night?
“Right. Ahem. Regardless of how you feel, yes, Jaclyn.” He said, normally smooth words slightly stuttering.
Wait. Did I just throw Night off by having gone on a date with a woman?
“First off, did you get bitten?” He asked.
I shook my head.
“Good. It’s not the worst thing to have happen, but it makes things less complicated. Now that we’ve established you’re ok, will I need to be burying a body – or did you not leave a body?”
“Crippled her shoulders.” I said. “Blew through both of them, disabling her arms. She ran off after that.”
More damned silence. I was never going to play cards with Night, not with that poker face.
“Thank you.” Night said. “While you would’ve been justified in removing her after her affront to you, I must confess I never enjoy hearing about the loss of one of mine – Sentinel or otherwise.”
“Normally, I dislike your approach, and I was the one who instilled the lesson in Artemis – do not leave threats behind. Granted, she’s taken that lesson further than I believe is reasonable, though not out of bounds, but she is a discussion for another day. However, today, I am thankful for your restraint.”
“Does everyone else know about you?” I asked. He seemed awfully unconcerned that I knew.
“Yes. It’s one of the things you and Commander Julius were to be educated on in a few days, along with a number of other critical pieces of information. Normally, the terrors of the skies are also part of your education, but you came to us knowing it already.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, and it felt like tumbleweeds were rolling through the room.
“I have decided. You deserve a history lesson, a full one. You may tell the others, but I’d prefer you didn’t. Call it my own desire for privacy.” Night said.
I nodded, eager to hear more, my curiosity and desire for stories getting the better of me.
“What year is it?” Night asked, out of the blue.
I had to think about it for a moment. It wasn’t something we used every day.
“4798.” I replied.
“Yes. And what does that number represent?” Night asked.
More thinking, back to System Day at the temple way back when.
“Years since creation?” I ventured a guess.
“It’s pretty close. Off by a few decades.” Night said. “But it’s close enough. More accurately, it’s how many years since Herculix was born.”
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 213!]
Wait. Vampire. Spoke of ancient events.
“You-“ I said, not daring to finish the sentence, not daring to believe.
“Yes. I was not born.” Night said. “I was created, at the dawn of time, when the big five gods and goddesses saw fit to create Pallos, and populate the planet with all manner of creatures.”
“It was the worst moment of my life. One moment I didn’t exist. The next moment, I was. A full adult, head crammed full of useless knowledge. A full language. Without the information of what language was, or how to use it. I didn’t even know how to stand! I had no history, no practical knowledge, no memories. A bundle of poorly thought-out instincts. I fell to the ground, twitching, as I tried to process what had happened, what was going on. Beams of light were coming down from the heavens as I did this, as the gods kept their cruel experiment going, creating all manner of creatures, of horrors.”
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 214!]
“The gods were new to creation. Pallos and its natives were their first attempt. Or rather, if it wasn’t their first attempt, I shudder to imagine what their first did look like, what ungodly horrors were created and unleashed to justify a purge, a mulligan on creation. Regardless. I was blessed, lucky to not die in those first few days as so many tens of thousands did, killed by their own body, killed by the gods forgetting something as fundamental as a mouth, misshapen, bloody things that only existed for a few brief moments of agony then died.”
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 215!]
Ok, you know what System? Shush. I’m listening to the ancient vampire talk about creation. Let me know what the gains are at the end.
“Some were plain unlucky. I saw a creature created next to me, only for a larger one to be created directly on top of him, instantly crushing him to death. One body I came across was clearly just the gods having figured out eyes, then trying every single type of eye onto a single being, simply to experiment. Nothing but flesh and eyes, dead mere moments after having been created, all for the gods to learn more, to see what would happen, how different types of eyes worked.”
“The world was hard and rocky, lava spurting out from the ground. The gods figured out that we needed soil, and the great soiling occurred, burying every creature in feet upon feet of the stuff.”
“Most small creatures were created or re-created after the event. Myself, I had to dig out of it. For all I knew at the time, being buried alive was a frequent occurrence. I spent weeks making sure I was always high up, such that when a repeat of the event occurred, I wouldn’t be buried again. More fragile plants were created then, damning those who had been able to survive in the lava fields to being buried.”
“But the gods were improving, steadily creating better and better races as a whole, as a rule. I’d like to think Vampires were one of the later races, as we were blessed with an immortal lifespan, fantastic physical prowess, and strong racial traits from the System.”
“Sadly, we vampires have some of the worst leveling I’ve ever heard of. I’m nearly 5000 years old, and still have yet to break level 500. Part of it is my role as a guardian, a defender, but more significantly was the fact that we are simply a failure from the gods.”
“My belief is the gods found a template that somewhat worked, and decided to continuously improve upon it. That is why so many creatures and monsters are human-like. Or, as the gods would put it, that is why so many creatures and monsters are elf-like.”
“For the elves were the god’s last and greatest humanoid creation, their peak, the pinnacle. Blessed with endless lives, rapid System growth, as much knowledge as they could give them at the start. The gods also cheated. Every other species was spread all over the planet, scattered to every corner, to see who and what would survive, and what would perish.”
“Not the elves. No, they were all created in a single area that the gods cleared ahead of time, given advantages no other species were.”
“Thanatos, the God of Death, made his greatest creation around this time. Black Crow//White Dove. An endlessly flipping coin. Two as one, you will be visited by only one, but both are always present.”
“White Dove takes those who go willingly, while Black Crow drags the unwilling away.”
“White Dove saw that many, many races, species, and yes, even some individuals she would never meet, for age does not touch them. She cursed them then, cursed them all.”
“I do not know what each race got. I know that we vampires lose access to our System-granted skills and stats when under sunlight.”
“Hang on – is that why you don’t go into sunlight? Not your [Oath] or whatever?” I asked, feeling lied to.
Night grinned at me, like Prometheus after he stole fire.
“No – I figured, while I’m already bound to not show up in the sun, why not take a restriction skill, formalize it, and gain power from it? The curse isn’t from the System after all, I am permitted to double-dip.”
I blinked. He was just cheating!
“The curse felled most of my fellow vampires, becoming prey during the daylight hours when most beasts roamed. Most of my brethren have taken a similar restriction skill, although a fire mage one was so dumb as to declare he’d burst into flame should sunlight ever touch him.”
“The idiot burst into flames three decades later when the gods decided to experiment with a second sun.”
Night shook his head at the memory.