Year of Our Lord, 21st of September 1056. Wygol Village

Fire. Fire surrounded him, cutting off all hopes of escape. Outside he could hear the screams of the townsfolk and the jeering calls of the monsters that hunted them.

How had this happened? The castle had been abandoned after its lord had fallen. He remembered, vaguely, the coming of God's Savior-the night so similar to this one, where the village burned as the vampires picked and chose their meals.

He had weathered that night in this very basement, shut in with his old grandmother and little sister, whimpering and waiting for it to be over. The door was barred with the thickest plank they could find and decorated with rosaries-much like it was now.

How had this happened? The Brotherhood of Light had sent troops to keep them safe from what few vampires remained in the area. The snows had finally, finally thawed, and they had started planting crops, and the harvest had looked so, so promising—

And now this. What had they done, to deserve such misfortune? The people of Wygol were simple folk, who did their utmost to keep to the Lord's commandments and follow His teachings. Why, then, were they the ones to suffer from this plague? What had they done to call this image of hell to their doorstep?

He would never have an answer, it seemed. Still, he was confident he could wait out this storm, as he had the last one-none of the foul creatures had seemed to notice the hiding spot he and his family had chosen-in fact, they seemed to be moving away, perhaps it would soon be over and they would be able to flee to safer cities—

And then the door burst inward.

All of those hiding in that small basement shrieked, even as soft, even footsteps brought a vampire into their midst. How had the creature done it? The door had been soaked in holy water, had a cross carved into it, blessed to give shelter to those in need. How could a creature of the depths even lay a finger upon it, much less snap it in twain as if it were no more than tinder?

And its appearance, oh God. It was wrapped in tatters – bits of what had once might have been a curtain or a moth-eaten tapestry fabric. Bandages covered just about all of its facial features, save for several gaps reserved for eyes and mouth, respectively. Hideous, birdlike claws gleamed in the trailing moonlight with an eerie red glow.

What followed was a nightmare. His brother-in-law charged the monster, wielding nothing more than a thick club, shouting something-but the monster simply knocked his make-shift weapon from his hands and hoisted him from the ground. Red eyes paused to look at the man for but a moment, and then the foul creature had buried its fangs into his throat.

Within moments, naught was left but a dry husk.

He tried to fight, to protect his family. He had smuggled a blade down here, and he took a swipe while the creature was still preoccupied with feeding, trying to bury the thing in its black heart.

The vampire merely gripped him by the throat, lifted him from his feet, and laughed.

And then it made him watch as the rest of his family was butchered. More vampires, lesser than this creature, swarmed in and dragged them away, even as they screamed and begged for their lives.

He tried to fight, but he could barely keep himself aware of his surroundings, for the cold claws around his throat refused to let him struggle as he would have liked to.

Finally, he was tossed aside, like he were nothing more than a doll, and he coughed and hacked through the pain and turned to glare up at the foul creature with all the hate in his heart.

It did not bother the beast. If anything, it only seemed to amuse it.

"Impious fiend," he barked at the creature, even as he spat blood, "God's Savior will see you pay for your sins!"

That only seemed to amuse the monster more. It started to laugh, a deep, mocking laughter, even as it sneered and stepped closer.

"God's Savior, you say? Will His chosen one come and deliver swift judgment? Would His champion arrive to condemn me?" The very thought seemed to be endlessly entertaining to the beast.

"Aye. Laugh while ye can, unholy one, for your time is coming!"

"Oh? But God's Savior is dead. He died like a dog – at my hands."

A new hate entered the man's heart. How dare this creature say such a thing? True or not, to so brazenly mock the blessed soldier that had saved him, his kin, his home, from darkness eight years ago...

"You will be hunted down for it is your fate! The Savior's blood lives on!" He coughed on another glob of blood and then continued to snarl at the vampire. "Even if I leave for the heavenly gates, his son will avenge us all!"

There was a pause, a deep silence as those red eyes regarded him. They seemed blank as if the words that had been spoken were unbelievable. That gave him bravado. The creature could know fear after all!

"There is no son!" A low, guttural hiss fled its throat.

"There is! I have seen him! Even now he is being trained in the art! He will slay you and your foul kin, beast! Mark my words, you will fall by his hand!"

Silence, again, but less shocked and more calculating this time, as those dots of hellish crimson followed his every movement. The creature sneered, a cruel, vicious grin, and stepped forwards-

and then its foot came down on his knee, and the man was screaming in agony. Cold claws gripped at his scalp, and he was hoisted into the air until he was face-to-face with the nightmare that was burning his home.

"And now… You're going to tell me everything you know of this...boy."

Mustering all of his strength, he retched and spat in the creature's face.

That coaxed a sadistic smile onto its features, fangs glinting in the light of the burning village. Its hand fled to its face to wipe it clean, but the titanic grip around his head did not slacken. "Is that your answer? Very well. We've plenty of time until the sun rises..." And the second set of claws gripped his shattered kneecap and pulled, tearing bone away from the flesh.

"I think I will take the time to enjoy it."