Dead Soul Army

Prologue

My mentor, Mr Larten Crepsley, recently passed away because my ex-best- friend Steve killed him on a bed of hundreds of fiery stakes. You may wonder why I'm talking about stakes. I'm a half-vampire. Mr Crepsley blooded me when I was a young boy. He did it by cutting the tips of my fingers – all ten – with his sharp nails. Then he dug his sharp nails into me. I used to be his cute and helpful assistant – well, I'm not sure that I was cute – until he died. I didn't believe vampires existed until I had to become one. Steve was the one who wanted to join Mr Crepsley as a full- vampire, but Mr Crepsley said he had bad blood. He said Steve had bad blood when – after a show one night – Steve had told him to test it. I was waiting in the wings, horrified. My best friend – a vampire! I thought he'd become one when I heard the sucking of blood, but then Mr Crepsley jumped back. And that was it. Steve got angry, and I avoided him. Then I stole a spider – Mr Crepsley's spider – and it bit him. He was on the verge of dying so I went to this Mr Crepsley and he said that, if I wanted to save Steve's life, I'd have to become his assistant and be a half- vampire and travel with him.
I wanted to say no, but I didn't have a choice.
Mr Crepsley told me that no-one would ever search for a dead person, so I had to fake a death – my death – and then we could be safe and I could leave. I got very emotional, but agreed and took a poison that would almost kill me – but leave enough life so I could recover and start life again when they buried me – and Mr Crepsley threw me out of my bedroom window. After I was reborn I joined the Cirque Du Freak – the show that I mentioned earlier – and helped Larten with his performing-spider-act. That was where I met Sam Grest, and he had a run in a Cirque performer – a dangerous wolfman – and died. Six years later – in vampire time – I had a run-in with a mad Vampaneze called Murlough and survived. Just. Vampaneze used to be Vampires – but they sort of formed their own clan, and when they come to battle us we'll be ready. I learned all that in Vampire Mountain, a special gathering that happened once every twelve years. It was so popular that even mountain wolves attended, as well as vampires.
Now I don't know what will happen. Steve promised to hunt me down a kill me, as he was now the Lord Of The Vampaneze and they could do anything. It came as quite a surprise to find that Steve had been blooded with Vampaneze blood, and was a full-vampaneze. Of course I couldn't forgive him for that. Mr Crepsley's dead, and Harkat Mulds – a little person, aka a best friend to me – will soon join the legion of the undead in the Lake Of Souls again. So, I am on my own – and I'm not happy about it, but I can't bring Mr Crepsley back. At the moment that is what hurts most, knowing I can't bring him back, so for now I'm on my own.

Chapter One "Pack your bags," I whispered to Truska one night. "I was searching on the net and I found two pictures of a young girl with blond hair and a long blonde beard, and she was rubbing her nose in the same way that you rub yours."
Truska was searching for firewood with me.
I don't think she was listening to me. I didn't mind, but knew that if this girl really was a daughter of hers and she missed the meeting time I'd found she'd be heartbroken. "Listen...um – I think this girl on the net is your long-lost daughter," I said. "She's a famous illustrator now – and she's signing her latest book illustration at the hall on – "
"I know," Truska sighed, and sat down on a smooth rock. I perched on it next to her to say a few words, but my mouth wouldn't open. "But I can't get to the hall, Darren. I can't leave the Cirque, and neither can you. Hibernius wouldn't be pleased if I said I wanted to quit, and... you know what he's like with you...safety and everything."
I scowled, and picked at my extra-long nails with my teeth. I'd only just arrived back at the Cirque Du Freak yesterday and already Mr Tall – Hibernius – was trying to prevent me from leaving and searching for Steve. I knew I couldn't leave, because I wasn't as strong – yet – as a full- vampire and I'd only die if I left by myself. I wanted to hunt and kill Steve, because he had hunted and killed Mr Crepsley. It seemed like the right thing to do, at the time, but now I knew that Hibernius Tall was right and I had to obey him.
"So you can't see your daughter," I whispered.
"You know very well that I can't," Truska told me, laughing so it echoed round the old bridges that we'd made came near. "And neither can you, Darren. Evra and Merla told me how lonely you were, how vampires came never have children. It seems a better life than mine, even though you can never be a husband or a father."
"No, I'm not blooding you, I've told you that a million times," I said, shocked. I could not believe what I'd just heard. "Truska, your heart's with the Cirque. I know it is, so I'm afraid that's where it'll have to stay. I'm not blooding a beautiful woman like you. Not a beautiful one who used to have the joys of family life."
"Don't remind me," Truska grumbled.
I knew she was upset because I'd refused to blood her, but I'd refused to blood her once before – and probably loads of times after – so I thought she'd be able to cope with my rejection. It was clear that she couldn't. "Ok, come here," I said, full of regrets of what I was about to do. Well, she wanted it. She wanted to become a vampire. "Full or half?" I asked. This is the vampire-standard-greeting when we're about to blood someone. I'd never blooded someone before, but I knew because Arra Sails – a vampire I'd met in Vampire Mountain – had told me. "Are you sure you want me to blood you, Truska? I would never have thought you'd have wanted to leave your life as a performer at the Cirque behind. Ok then, I'll blood you, and then we'll be off." Truska looked at me then, in a frightened sort of way. "I'm not leaving the Cirque, Darren," she told me. "And full, if that's ok. I know full-vampire has certain drawbacks, like not being able to go out in sunlight for over two hours, but I am fine about it – blood me, Darren, I don't care how much it will hurt." I nodded, and cut into the fingertips of my left hand with my fingernails on my right and then I pressed my fingernails – all ten of them – into Truska's fingertips. She cried out but never told me to stop. I couldn't, anyway. The blood flowed through my body and into hers and her blood flowed through her body and into mine. I held the connection for twenty minutes, twice as long as for a half-vampire. Then I broke the connection, and then decided. I sealed Truska's cuts with my own spit, and they turned into scars. "Um...would you mind doing the connection again...just for ten minutes?" I asked, and Truska shook her head. She didn't mind, I could tell. I pressed my bloody fingertips to her scars and broke the connection ten minutes later. "We...well, we're both full-vampires," I said to her. "What would you like to do?" "Huh?" Truska asked me. "Oh, you thought you were a half-vampire more than me? No, when I asked you to do the connection again it was all to do with me," I said, sealing my own fingertips with spit. Then I washed my fingernails in my mouth, licking them. I was now a full-vampire, and I was proud. I wasn't sure how Mr Hibernius Tall would take it, though. "I'm a Vampire Prince," I said to Truska, unsure how she would take so many shocks. I reminded myself that she wanted it all. She wanted this life. She wanted to age at one-tenth the usual rate, and it was fine by me. "Because I'm a Vampire Prince you'll have to obey me. All the other vampires do, except the other clan." "What other clan?" Truska asked, breathing hard.
My face turned dark. "I can't believe you're making me tell you what I'm about to say to you," I told her, scowling. "No Vampire Prince is allowed to speak their name, unless of course you're a Vampire Prince who got appointed a Vampire Prince by luck. Which I am, and I got so lucky because I was supposed to die and be killed on those stakes."
"Were you?" Truska asked, and I was pleased that she was interested. That meant that I didn't have to tell her about the other clan. "Anyway, I still don't know who the other clan are – aren't I supposed to learn that stuff?"
"Not that stuff, no," I whispered.