July 2nd, 1803
“Higher, papa! I wanna go higher!”
The plea was followed by a loud squeal of happiness as Asenath’s father gave the rope she was clinging to a mighty shove, sending the eight-year-old girl swinging nearly to the top of the tree that the sturdy line hung from. It took barely a fraction of the man’s strength to propel her that far, while the tree’s slight groan of protest at the force was masked beneath the exhilarated cry of pure childish glee.
“Again, again, again!” Joyfully, the girl pled for another swing, and was rewarded with one more solid shove that sent her even higher. This time, however, the branch made its objections to the force known in the most dramatic way possible. It snapped off the tall tree entirely with a near-deafening crack.
Asenath’s happy cry turned into one of fear as she lost her grip on the rope and went flying through the air, her small body tumbling haphazardly end over end. She arced up and over several bushes before dropping toward the rocky ground that marked the very edge of her family’s property.
Before she could crash down, however, there was a blur of motion so fast that it was almost impossible to follow. Her father appeared directly beneath the girl, catching her easily in his strong arms, absorbing the impact without harm by pulling his child to his chest and taking a single step back.
Upon realizing that she hadn’t splattered against the rocks after all, Asenath brightened and wrapped her arms around her father’s neck in a tight, clinging hug. “Papa! You’re fast, Papa.”
Smiling, the man called Tiras went down to one knee while setting his child on her feet. Then he leaned back to examine her. His daughter’s features were a clear mix of races. Most prominent was her mother’s Chinese heritage, though a bit of his own face could be seen as well.
His own face. Most would have said that the man who called himself Tiras hailed from the Cherokee tribes, whose lands were only a week or so ride away. That assumption, however, would have been utterly wrong. Tiras had been born much further away than most would ever come close to imagining.
Tiras was not human. His birthplace lay in another realm, another world entirely removed from this one. To those in this world, he would have been considered a monster. And perhaps he was, in a way. His strength, speed, and other gifts were far from ordinary to the inhabitants of this quaint society.
But by far his most monstrous feature was the man’s incredible hunger, his undeniable need for one thing: the blood of the inhabitants of this world that he had found himself living among.
Upon the world that Tiras had been born, his people were a race of warriors known as the Akharu. One of four separate intelligent races that warred constantly for the meager scraps of resources that their world retained, the Akharu managed to claim the throne of the world, an act that granted them relative immortality. They would not die naturally, and an unnatural death could only be achieved through extremely rigorous actions, usually requiring the complete dismemberment and disintegration of their body. Most wounds would heal extremely quickly, and their other powers grew exponentially.
It should have meant the end to eons of battles as the Akharu established dominion over their rival races. Unfortunately, not all of those races were content to allow the Akharu to win so easily. Another race, the Vestil, pooled their impressive magic in one last desperate bid toward victory. Their efforts could not undo the power that Tiras’s people had gained, but they could force a curse upon their hated rivals. This curse poisoned the blood of the Akharu. As killing them with such a curse was impossible, this poisoned blood simply paralyzed their bodies, leaving them awake and aware, but incapable of acting. They would be trapped that way, helpless to defend themselves.
As the curse spread like wildfire through their people, the Akharu had searched desperately for a cure. Eventually, they had found at least a stop-gap measure. Partaking of the blood from other creatures actually seemed to dilute their own poisoned blood, sparing them from being paralyzed and trapped. It was not a perfect solution, as the new blood would slowly become tainted by the poison, requiring them to take in a fresh batch on a regular basis in order to avoid falling victim to the Vestil’s curse.
Many of the Akharu had left their world, searching for answers and a permanent cure. Tiras had been among those explorers. His search had brought him, like many of his fellow warriors, to this small world. There, they had discovered that they could create more of their own kind from the humans of this place by feeding them their cursed blood within a short period before they died.
There was, however, a weakness to these hybrids. Somehow, the act of becoming half-Akharu left their bodies incredibly sensitive to sunlight. While Tiras and his fellow full-Akharu were perfectly fine within its rays, the altered humans they created would burn very quickly if exposed to it.
Some saw this as a way to create enough reinforcements to storm their own world, defeat the Vestil, and force them to create a permanent cure for the curse. Others, like Tiras himself, saw it as a sign that they did not need to fight such a war any longer. Their world was broken and ugly, destroyed by millennia of war. This planet was pure, nearly untouched. And they were compatible with its inhabitants. They could live here in relative peace, retiring from their very long struggle.
Some of the Akharu, Tiras included, did just that. They attempted to live normal lives, feeding when necessary either from animals or those who were considered evil. Others sought to achieve their initial goal of turning enough of the humans to create an army, while still more simply tried to carve out their own kingdoms, terrifying and enslaving the local populace.
Sadly, the retirement and peaceful life that Tiras and those like him had chosen was not to be. The Heretics, humans of this world who could see the Akharu (and other creatures who had found this world) for what they truly were did not care to make distinctions between those who killed and those who lived peacefully. They hunted down all of what they called vampires, and a steady war had been fought for centuries, a war that Tiras had been avoiding as much as possible by moving constantly.
Twelve years earlier, Tiras’s lonely journey across these lands had brought him to a hospital in what the humans called New York City. There, he had found himself drawn to a Chinese woman named Jiao who lay curled up in one of the beds. The illness she suffered from was beyond what the doctors of this place were capable of healing. They had done all they could by making the poor woman as comfortable as possible, and then simply waited for her to inevitably pass away.
Still, Jiao tried to speak with the man who stood in the doorway of her room. And Tiras had found himself sitting next to her. They spoke, and, over a very short time, he came to care for the human woman more than he had cared for anyone else in his very long life.
Unable to bear the thought of her death, Tiras shared his blood with the woman. When she passed, Jiao awoke stronger and more powerful than she had ever been in life. The two escaped the hospital in the dead of night, and began to journey together while Tiras told her the truth of his existence and origin.
Jiao stayed with Tiras, and the two of them had become inseparable, considering themselves married for all intents and purposes. For several years, the pair had traveled together, until Jiao eventually became pregnant with the daughter that they would eventually name Asenath.
With a daughter to take care of and educate, the two of them had settled on this large ranch not far from the tribe of people whom Tiras’s features most closely resembled. There, they had raised their child for the past decade in peace, feeding upon the very livestock that they raised, as well as the occasional violent bandit who mistakenly believed that the peaceful ranch would be an easy target.
That peaceful life, unfortunately, had drawn to an end very recently. As Tiras embraced his daughter, he hugged her even more tightly than usual for a few long seconds before releasing her. “You understand why I must leave you here with your mother, Senny?”
The girl smiled just a little at the use of her nickname before nodding sadly. Her voice was small. “I know. You have to stop the bad guys from making the magic blood hurt everyone.”
It was a true, though simplistic answer. Several of Tiras’s old friends had tracked him down, explaining that the Vestil had not given up on their attempts to eradicate the Akharu. Over the centuries, they had apparently created another curse. This one would kill all who shared Akharu blood, including his wife and child. Unable to let that prospect stand, Tiras had agreed to go with his people to put a stop to it.
Jiao had wanted to come, but Tiras had convinced her that she had to stay with their child. The two had spent one last night together, and now Tiras had spent the morning with his daughter. Jiao, of course, could not leave the shelter of the cabin during the daytime.
“That’s right, my little Sunny Senny,” Tiras smiled, wanting his child to be happy. “I cannot say how long it will take, but you know that I will eventually come back to you. That I swear to you, my child. If it takes a millennia, I will return to you.”
The girl made a face at him. “I’ll be really old by then, Papa. You better come back sooner.”
Chuckling, Tiras shook his head. “I have given your mother a bit of my blood, child. If the time comes and I have taken too long to return, she will give it to you. Then you will both live long enough for me to come back and find you. Do you understand? No matter how long it takes, I will find you both.”
“I understand, Papa,” Senny’s head bobbed up and down in agreement, her dark hair flying from the motion. “Please don’t take too long though, okay?”
Smiling once more, Tiras embraced his child. “I promise, my beautiful child. I will return as soon as possible. You have my vow. Nothing will keep me from my family.”
Deep in the bowels of an old warehouse in the middle of Detroit, dozens of men and women dressed in light blue jumpsuits and surgical masks worked diligently to measure and pack the illicit white substance that their employer distributed throughout the state. Here and there, armed guards in black uniforms patrolled through their ranks, ensuring that no one thought sticking some away for themselves or to sell on their own was a good idea. Not that any of them were that stupid. They knew, especially after today, what happened when someone tried to cheat Raul Frein out of what he considered rightfully his.
In the midst of this busy warehouse, the sound of shattering glass abruptly filled the air as a body plummeted through the skylight. The figure, belatedly recognizable as one of the armed guards that patrolled along the roof of the building, crashed hard into the concrete floor. Its sudden and loud arrival instantly drew the attention of every person in the massive room, worker and guard alike.
Conversations halted as two of the guards, automatic rifles held tight in their hands, came close to kick a couple times at the clearly thoroughly dead figure. His head had been turned almost a full one hundred and eighty degrees from where it should have been, even before impact.
“What–” The nearest of the guards, foot still poking his dead comrade, managed to get out. Before he could continue that sentence, unfortunately, the man was interrupted by the second figure who had dropped much more silently through the now-broken skylight. She landed smoothly and effortlessly directly in the middle of the gathered crowd, beside the dead man.
“Hiya!” Asenath, long-since grown into a young woman in her very late teens or early twenties, greeted the men with a wave of one hand. “Maybe you guys can help me. See, I’m looking for the nearest piece of shit drug dealing fucktard who thinks it’s okay to kidnap innocent kids. I asked your buddy there for directions, but you know…” With a small smirk, she indicated his thoroughly and fatally twisted head. “He just got all turned around.”
To their credit, the men tried to act as quickly as they could. Unfortunately, they were still working off of human reaction times. As the nearest brought his rifle up, Asenath gracefully spun away from his line of fire. Her hand snapped out, catching the edge of the barrel and adjusting its aim just enough that the man’s reflexive shot took one of his companions in the stomach.
Exercising a relatively small portion of her strength, the two-hundred year old vampire tore the rifle from the man’s hands. In the same motion, she continued her spin and swung the weapon around and over to collide with the head of another man. She then used that as a brace just long enough, while the man was falling, to flip herself up and around sideways. Her legs wrapped around the neck of the man she had stolen the rifle from, and she gave a hard twist while her weight and force dragged his body sideways. The lifeless man collapsed to the floor, while Asenath herself landed in a crouch.
Three men down, two seconds had passed.
One of the men tried to back away while opening fire and shouting for help. Asenath threw the dented remains of the rifle into his legs, tripping him up long enough for her to spring back to her feet. The kick that she planted in the stumbling man’s stomach drove the air from his lungs and dropped him to the floor, while a follow-up kick ensured that he stayed there.
Pivoting on her heel, Asenath regarded the three guards who remained with their weapons raised. She offered them a faint smile before asking, “Anyone? Anyone want to tell me where I can find the drug dealer of the house?”
The response from two of the men were a vitriolically spat, ‘Go to hell!’ and ‘Chink slut!’
Their fingers tightened on the triggers, but Asenath was already moving. With a blur of motion, she abruptly put herself between the nearest of the two men. While the first bullets were expelling themselves from the chambers, aimed at the spot she had been standing in a bare second earlier, she reached down with both hands. Catching hold of the knife attached to each man’s hip, she tugged them up and out, then stabbed in either direction.
The stream of bullets had barely started before ending. The two men who had opened fire stood with the girl directly in between them, their own knives held in her hands with the blades buried deep in their throats.
With a slight tug, Asenath pulled the knives from the men’s necks. Their lifeless bodies collapsed, and she turned to face the sole remaining guard with a bloody weapon in each hand. Regarding him briefly, she slowly tilted her head with a questioning look.
The man promptly threw his rifle on the ground, took a deliberate step away, and raised his hand to point off through one of the doors. The same gesture was copied by the crowd of workers, all of them pointing to that single door.
“Good boy,” Asenath praised before turning on her heel to walk toward the indicated door.
As she began to leave, the remaining guard let out a breath of relief and began to take a single step toward the exit, intent on getting the hell out of there before she changed her mind. Before he could finish that step, however, Asenath called back to him, “If you’re not standing in that exact spot when I get back, I will track you down.”
He put his foot back where it had been and didn’t move again.
Reaching the heavily reinforced door, the relatively diminutive figure tilted her head while examining it. A single kick a moment later snapped it off its hinges and sent it crashing inward.
“Luuuucy!” She called out while stepping through the doorway. “You got some splainin’ to do!”
The well-dressed man on the other side of the room from the entrance stood with his revolver pressed close to the head of a small, sandy-haired boy. The man’s eyes were wild and frantic while he stared at the figure who had just literally kicked his door in. “Fuck you! Fuck you! Cunt! Back off! Back the fuck off you stupid piece of shit! I swear to god I’ll kill the kid! I’ll fucking end him, you ignorant little bitch! You back the fuck off, I don’t know what the hell you are, but back the fuck off!”
Staying where she was, Asenath regarded the man. “You’ve been a bad boy, Raul.” She made a disapproving clicking noise with her tongue. “Kidnapping an innocent kid?” Looking to the terrified child, she added, “Don’t worry, Dominic, you’ll be back with your mom in a few minutes.”
Raul pressed the revolver barrel closer to the boy’s head. “Hey, hey! No he won’t. Not until Dominic’s Uncle Patrick gets me my fucking money!”
In response, Asenath’s hand snapped upward and out. One of the knives that she had appropriated flew through the air with so much speed and force that it had sliced completely through the man’s wrist, severing his hand from his arm, before he even realized what was happening. His hand, with the gun still clasped in it, dropped to the ground.
His scream had hardly begun before Asenath was on him. She gave his head a hard shove into the wall while simultaneously snatching the young Dominic away from him. With a blur of motion, she gathered the boy into her arms and ran from the building. Before the dazed child registered that they were moving, she was setting him down in the middle of the parking lot. In the distance, flashing red and blue lights could be seen rapidly approaching.
“See those cars, Dominic?” She pointed until the boy’s head bobbed up and down. “You run right to them and tell them who you are and that your mommy is looking for you. Understand?” Another nod, and she gave him a push. “Go.”
The boy took off running, and Asenath turned in the opposite direction. Another blur of motion came, and she returned to the room where she had left Raul. The man lay on his side, half-unconscious from shock as he stared at his severed hand. “B-b-b…” He stammered upon seeing her.
“I know, I know,” Asenath gave a single nod. “Bitch. I’m a bitch, right? Don’t worry, I wouldn’t leave you here to bleed out all alone on the floor. I’m not that harsh.”
Staring up at her, Raul managed a hesitant, hopeful smile.
“After all,” the woman returned the smile before slowly opening her mouth to reveal sharp fangs that slid into place.
Walking away from the warehouse a short time later as the police descended upon it in force, Senny drew a hand along her mouth, wiping the last few traces of blood from her lips before letting out a sigh of contentment.
It had been over two hundred years since her father had left with promises to return as soon as he could. She still held out hope that he would come back one day, but her life had moved on. She and her mother had been forced to leave their ranch or risk attracting too much attention. Over the ensuing years, Asenath herself had grown up, eventually partaking of her father’s blood and becoming a vampire alongside her mother. The two of them had experienced so many incredible things throughout the growth of this country into the force that it now was that Senny had lost track of all the things she wished to tell her father about.
She just wanted him back. Even now, two hundred years later, she yearned for her father’s embrace.
The phone in her pocket rang, interrupting her inner musings. Tugging out the cell, Asenath accepted the call with a simple, “Yeah?”
“Umm…” The tentative female voice on the other side of the line ventured hesitantly. “H-hello? I’m not sure I have the right number. I don’t even know if I should be calling. This is wrong. I just… I just…” The voice dissolved into obvious tears.
Asenath softened her own voice. “It’s all right, you called the right number. Did something happen to you? Something you can’t explain or talk to anyone else about?”
There was a moment of silence before the woman on the other end of the line whimpered slightly. “I, no, not me. My daughter. A friend said I should call this number, that you could help, but I don’t know… the police say sh-she killed herself.”
“You don’t think she did?” Asenath replied as gently as possible.
“My Denise wouldn’t do that!” The woman blurted. “And all the other things they said she did… th-they said she taped the gasoline nozzle to her own mouth, that she drowned herself on it! That she killed that poor man in the store and then killed herself, but how could she?! Sh-she couldn’t, I swear she couldn’t do that! She wouldn’t! But th-they won’t listen. They won’t listen and no one will listen and my Denise is gone, she’s gone and I can’t help her, they won’t help her!” The words turned into incoherent sobbing.
Waiting through that with long-practiced patience, Asenath eventually managed to extract enough details to understand what had happened at that gas station. Once the story was out, she glowered at the empty air. “Ma’am, it’ll take me a few days to get down there, but I will make it as soon as I can.”
“D-does this mean you’ll find out what happened to my D-Denise?” The grieving woman’s voice was a desperate, yearning plea.
“Yes,” Asenath vowed firmly as she strode into the shadowy night. “I will find out what happened to your daughter. I will track down whoever did that to her.
“And I will make that person regret they were ever born.”