Author's Notes: All right so this ended up getting edited a bit more than I originally thought it would, so everyone will want to read it again I'm sure. The story itself actually needed to be tweaked a bit because of something that was just changed near the end of it. Anyway, I hope that everyone will let me know how they feel about this chapter. I'll have the next chapter up in a few days at most. The revising is going extremely well. Am almost completely finished with it so I can go back to writing new material, but it was very necessary.
Lastly, I hope that I will be finished with this story by the end of the month. I'm not sure if it will all be posted by then, but it will be done.
Ezekiel, Romania, 1984
The moon and stars were high in the sky but both refused to shine through the numerous storm clouds, leaving the land below blanketed in a dense, unnatural darkness.
The Carpathian Mountains were known to have storms as horrible as this, even when the storm season was long since over. The locals had learned quickly enough to stay locked inside their houses whenever there were storms this intense. And of the many they had had this year this was by far the worst. Even the animals knew to stay sheltered this night.
Yet one young man was out, braving the wrath of the heavens alone. His dark chocolate eyes warily searched the wooded grounds for his twin brother, their depths so devoid of emotion that most would recoil from him in fear.
His tall muscled form seemed to glide rather than walk as he moved noiselessly passed trees. "Enough of this Zacharai. Come to me and find peace." His voice was low, black magic, so peaceful and soothing that it was impossible to ignore.
The wind rose and roared in response to the call.
Out of the darkness materialized a man. His once handsome features were ruined by a scowl. Skin was drawn tightly over his skull and was pale, as if he had not yet fed. Teeth that used to be a sparkling white were now brown and decaying, stained beyond saving and the lips surrounding them chapped and spotted with his prey's dry blood. Once immaculate clothes were torn and covered with fresh signs of killing and torture. Pitch hair was barely hanging on in small tuffs; pieces of scalp missing altogether in some places. Elegant artist's hands were now skin and bone; elongated so they looked inhuman; and ended in sharp, yellowed talon-like claws. Pieces of human skin and muscle were still stuck beneath the nails, almost as if the creature could not feel their presence, or perhaps delighted in it. But judging by the state his body was in, it was doubtful the man could feel anything at all; which was probably a blessing. His body was so deformed and crooked it looked to be extremely painful, as if hours of torture had wrought this change.
But the most horrible thing was the eyes of the walking corpse. They were bright, flaming red, no pupil visible in the midst of the glowing embers. Their depths were filled with utter loathing and need for violence and bloodshed.
The sight of the undead only seemed to steel Ezekiel's determination. This pitiful, blood thirsty creature had once been his best friend, his one link to fight the darkness, the beast growing inside him. And yet now his twin was lost to him for all eternity. When had things become so desperate for their kind?
His brother snarled at him, "You think to beat me with such juvenile tricks brother? You truly have grown arrogant as of late."
Ezekiel had no trouble keeping his face stoic as he had felt no real emotion in over five hundred years. Yet what hope he had left that he would remain in control of his own beast, let alone ever find his own lifemate, was gone. His chocolate eyes traveled slowly over his brother's decomposing form. "Why Zacharai? We had a promise."
Zacharai's eyes narrowed in hate. "It was easy for you to hold out! You're an artist," he spit the word out sarcastically. "You did not have to hunt and kill on your every rising. The only time you come close to making a kill is when you feed! Do not speak to me about the promises we've made." His voice was practically a growl, grit out through his stained teeth, the sound grating and painful, not unlike nails on a chalkboard.
Ezekiel frowned, "And who taught you all you know? Our brother is over one hundred years your senior and yet he still remains clean. Besides brother, have you forgotten that it was your choice to take up the hunt."
A derisive snort came from Zacharai at this. "Choice! What choice are we given? And yes, what a wonderful hunter Elijah is. In his latest attempt to face the undead he was wounded so horribly they had to lock him in the ground. Besides this is what our race should be. We should easily take control of those insignificant humans. It is our right!"
Ezekiel raised a dark brow slowly, regarding his brother with his steady chocolate eyes. "Our right? I do not see how you have managed to come to this thinking brother, but what good would it do our people to rule over the mortals? What would we gain?"
Zacharai glared, the flames in his eyes leaping higher as his anger and hatred engulfed him. "Enough stalling! It's time to show you how much I have learned these past years in my experimenting with Nicolah. I will make sure you never get to meet your little seer."
Without waiting even a moment he launched himself at Ezekiel, his talons outstretched, spread to catch as much flesh as possible.
Ezekiel crouched, his muscles tensing in anticipation of the fight. At the last possible moment he dodged his twin and struck out with his own claws, hitting his mark perfectly.
Zacharai stilled and then slowly placed a hand on his torn side. When his hand left it was covered in dark, poisoned blood. He stared at it passively before bringing it to his mouth, licking the blood casually off his digits. Red eyes lifted and locked with dark chocolate ones that he also used to have. A crooked grin spread across his lips again, "So you aren't as helpless as I thought. This should make for an interesting fight then." His eyes drifted carelessly from his twin to fix on the trees directly behind and he stiffened, before bowing mockingly. "Well how nice of you to join us, Elijah. Can't give up playing guardian to your favorite little brother?"
Ezekiel spun around without thinking to stare at his taller, older brother. "Elijah you shouldn't be up yet."
Elijah idly waved a tanned hand, his dark ocean filled eyes steady on his youngest brother. "It doesn't matter. I have enough energy to rid the world of this evil."
Zacharai laughed bitterly. "Your savage wounds are still bleeding old man. You have no chance of defeating me, despite your advantage of years."
Elijah flashed a tired, humorless smile. "You have no concept of the true power I hold vampire."
"Vampire? Too ashamed to admit that I'm your brother?"
"You ceased to be my brother when you chose to damn your soul. You are nothing now but a walking corpse that needs to find peace."
Zacharai growled, taking a step towards Elijah only to find Ezekiel in front of him.
Ezekiel stared at his brother, his muscles clenching and unclenching. "Enough. Elijah I cannot allow you to fight in your condition." Anticipating his brother's denial he held out a hand to still the protest. "Either way it is my right and duty to help our brother find peace." He turned slowly, a casual ripple of muscle, so that he was once more facing his twin. 'I have never done this, brother, as you well know. I will need you to guide me in this task.'
'If I am unable to fight myself then I can do none other than help you.' His brother's voice was low, weary as it echoed in his mind. 'Keep your eyes on his face; he may try to entrap you.'
Ezekiel said nothing, but gave a small nod to show he understood. His entire focus was then on Zacharai, his body perfectly still, waiting for his brother's attack.
Zacharai flashed a grin. "Even with him helping you, you'll lose."
The soil between their feet began to bubble upwards, creating a small mound that was steadily growing larger.
'He is calling on the insects for help. You will need to destroy them, but do not take your eyes from him.'
Ezekiel frowned deeply. "This is between you and me brother. Do not use such tricks." Once again his voice was pure, a compulsion that was impossible to ignore.
For a moment the earth stopped moving and his twin was still. This was his chance to finish it. He lunged forward; hand extended just as Zacharai launched himself.
Whatever happened was too quick to follow and the next moment the twins stumbled away from one another.
Zacharai turned slowly, horror written on his face as he saw his own pulsing heart in his brother's hands. He sluggishly threw himself at Ezekiel, his stained talons grasping for his heart and tearing at the hunter at the same time. This could not be happening! He was so much stronger than his twin!
Elijah stirred on the sidelines. 'You need to burn it Ezekiel.'
Ezekiel gave a small nod and ignoring his growling twin set the blackened organ aflame, watching as it turned to dust.
Zacharai's body began to spasm before it too caught fire and slowly burned away.
Ezekiel fell to his knees, as wind swept through to get rid of the noxious fumes that were trying to finish the undead's work even after it had perished. His hand clutching at his own chest where the creature had scored many deep hits. His brow was dotted with blood as he felt part of his soul torn away from him.
And even though he should have felt remorse for killing his twin, he did not. All he could think of was when the stain across his soul would spread and consume him so that another would be forced to track and hunt him as he had hunted his own brother.
His chocolate eyes closed as he felt Elijah place a hand on his shoulder. "It is done Ezekiel. Let us leave this place so that you may rest."
Ezekiel glanced up at his older brother, his dark eyes completely empty. "You are right Elijah.. I think it may be time I rest. Go back to ground brother."
Elijah frowned deeply, his dark brows pressed together as he stared intently at his young sibling. "Do not say that. If you give up on life now you condemn your lifemate to a life of loneliness and sorrow."
Ezekiel sighed, "Do you really believe that I have a lifemate brother? I have given up hope after all these years of bleakness Elijah; one can only stand so much."
One dark eyebrow rose on his brother's face. "I know what it is like Ezekiel; I have been on this earth for almost two hundred years more than you. Do not give up hope yet brother. You will have your lifemate soon enough. Do not forget that Zacharai spoke of her on many an occasion. Just be strong until she comes."
"I am unsure I can last much longer Elijah. The beast in me is strong, like it was in Zacharai-"
Elijah shook his head, "You are not your twin. For all his gifts and talents he was weak where it counted, you are not. There is a woman who will need you, your seer, live for her." At Ezekiel's slow nod he sighed, "Now, I think we both need the healing soil for a few nights."
Elijah followed Ezekiel to his resting place and sealed him into it, needing to make sure his brother would not try to greet the dawn. Then placing himself above his brother he sealed the earth above them and sent himself to sleep.
The sun was just beginning its journey downwards when Ezekiel woke deep in the earth. He lay completely motionless for a few minutes before he waved a hand and the earth spewed upwards, releasing its hold on him.
Inhaling slowly he sent out a call, beckoning human prey to him so he might replenish his lost blood. He went out of the deep caves to meet the two male hunters that had come. Both men were large, young and exhibited bulky football player builds and each had a hunting rifle in their hands. It was not only their first time hunting, but their first time visiting the Carpathian Mountains. Fresh out of college, they had been intrigued by the rumors of vampires in the area. So here they were, looking for the undead under the guise of hunting.
Ezekiel fed deeply from the two and then implanted memories of a conversation the three had had, clearly giving the impression that the rumors were just that. Rumors.
He walked with them back to the village, for they had been hopelessly lost, and left them to go his own way.
It was not long before his brother found him. "You are feeling better this rising Ezekiel?"
He gave a curt nod, "I am Elijah. And yourself?"
Elijah forced a small smile. "I feel myself again."
The two stared motionless at one another for a few minutes, the swaying branches the only intrusion to the eerie silence. Then Ezekiel sighed, "Will you teach me brother?"
Elijah's ocean colored eyes regarded him, staying silent for a long moment before he gave a slow, reluctant nod. "If you are sure that this is what you wish."
"Then I will teach you all I know. But you must promise me that you will not hunt unless it is necessary."
Ezekiel did a slow, thorough sweep of the undead's deep lair, his chocolate eyes searching for any clue of the vampire's resting spot. The sun was almost completely gone from the sky and he was not nearly as ready as he should have been. The traps set at the entrance of the cave had taken him longer than expected and had given some shallow, burning wounds. But he had been searching for this one for some time, and there was no way that he was going to give up when he was close to finishing it.
He had two more minutes before the undead could rise and battle with him and it seemed he would need every moment he had.
Unexpectedly a root shot through the soil and wrapped itself firmly about his ankle, holding him in place as snakes slid into the cave from seemingly nowhere, slithering toward him faster than they normally moved. There were over ten, each was hissing softly, mouths open, their fangs dripping with venom as they began to throw themselves at his legs. Two managed to latch onto his legs, digging fangs deeply into his calves and releasing their venom into his blood system. The poison began to take affect quickly, quicker than it should have, but then they were not normal snakes. He was dealing with the undead, one that had studied and tinkered with poisons and venoms for some time. He had finally managed to created a new one it seemed and had somehow gotten it into the snakes.
This particular poison was trying to paralyze his body so that he would be unable to fight when the undead finally rose. He shook his head slowly, his body working on getting the poison out of his system even as he created a glowing ball of fire in his hand. The flame hovered just above his palm, not burning or even heating the skin there as moments later the smell of burning flesh filled the cave. Each one of the snakes was burned to ashes within seconds, leaving no sign of them; even the ones that had been attached to his leg were devoured.
Yet the snakes had served their master well, taking what was left of his time to prepare.
One of the caves walls began to crack downwards, the soil around it spewing upward like a geyser as the undead threw himself from his imprisonment towards Ezekiel, talons out and ready to strike soft flesh.
Ezekiel started to dodge when he felt his muscles begin to burn. He was not able to move quickly enough and the undead's claws struck his side and dug deep into the flesh.
A grin spread across the vampire's blood stained lips. "Tsk. Underestimating your opponent, hunter, is a sure way to get killed. Each snake that attacked you held a different poison, each an invention of mine. The one left in you attacks muscles and nerves, eating them away slowly like acid on metal. And better yet the one infected cannot rid the poison from their system as by the time they notice it has taken a hold of them." His flame red eyes were dancing; clearly it thought that it had already won the battle. "Zacharai told the truth when he said you were incompetent."
Ezekiel's body was growing weaker as dark blood seeped from his side and the burning of his muscles increased. Yet he remained silent, refusing to show any sign of suffering other than his blood dotted forehead.
The vampire took a step forward, his talons growing as he readied himself to finish the job. "It's sad that the brother of such a great healer could be such a disappointment."
A blur of black struck at the vampire, tearing into its chest and reaching for the heart.
The undead hissed in anger and leapt back. "So the Guardian comes at last," he spat out. "This seems quite unfair now, two hunters and just one of me." With a shake of his head he retreated further, "I know when to back down." A cheeky grin later the undead turned to mist and fled the caves, droplets of unclean blood falling and leaving a trail that could be easily followed.
"Go after him Elijah."
His brother sighed and fixed his ocean eyes on the wounded Carpathian. "I would rather heal you and track the undead on the next rising. Besides this one is not much of a threat. Now hold still while I examine the poison." Elijah grew still, becoming light and pure energy to enter his brother and remove the threat spreading quickly through Ezekiel's bloodstream.
The pain came on suddenly and so intensely that she stopped mid conversation with her friend. Her azure eyes were wide as her body tried to cope with the terrible burning to her once relaxed muscles. Now they were clenching tightly and then in the next moment relaxing. She gave a soft moan even as she tried to ensure her friend that she was all right.
But the other young woman did not believe her and moved to sit on the bed her friend was on. She reached out with a tanned hand and gently stroked the other female's long, silky blonde hair. "Audrey? What's wrong?" The young woman's caramel chocolate eyes were filled with worry and surprise as she tried to comfort her friend.
The pain in Audrey's muscles was increasing, yet at the same time she got the distinct feeling that the pain wasn't her own. "I-I don't know… it just…. hurts."
If it wasn't her pain than whose was it?
The blonde smiled weakly at her friend. "Really though it's not too bad Rebekah, nothing to worry about."
A dark eyebrow arched as it always did when her friend knew she was lying. "Oh really? Then would you care to explain why your body is spasming and your brow is covered in sweat?"
Audrey grinned sheepishly, fighting a wince. "Would you believe that it's an average random twitch?"
"An average twitch?"
She knew her friend was still talking, yelling most likely but suddenly it didn't matter. A peaceful feeling was seeping into her body, which was still spasming, but now it didn't hurt as much, as if she was being shielded from the pain.
'I am sorry that you are sharing in my pain.' The voice that filled her head was deep, accented and incredibly male. It sounded sexy, brooding.
She blinked, shaking her head. She had never thought a man's voice was sexy before. And it certainly didn't help that she was hearing this stranger's voice in her head. Maybe all the years of joking about hearing voices was coming back to haunt her.
Low male laughter invaded her mind next, sending unexpected; and unwanted; warm tingles through her body. 'You are not hearing voices, ma petite, at least not imagined ones.'
Audrey closed her eyes, finding herself wishing that this man would just keep talking so that she could hear his beautiful voice.
She chewed her lower rosy lip in a moment of indecision before hesitantly asking, 'Who are you?'
She heard his sharp intake of breath and wondered about it as she waited anxiously for his response.
'Ezekiel Dragelescu, piccola.' His voice was lower, and if possible sexier than it hand been, sending shivers down her spine. 'And your name?'
"Audrey! Hello Audrey! Can you hear me!"
She blinked her azure eyes open and slowly let them focus on the tanned hand waving frantically before her face. The pain was completely gone, but so was the intriguing presence. Strangely she found that it unnerved her that it was gone. She missed it already, which frightened her.
Sighing she focused her attention on her worried friend. "I'm fine Rebekah, just daydreaming again."
The brunette's eyebrow arched upwards again. "For five minutes?"
Audrey blinked, "Five minutes? Really?"
Rebekah sighed and shook her head, her dark long braid swaying with the movement. "You're okay all right…"
"Hey what's that supposed to mean?"
Elijah entered his own body once more, wearier than before, but still strong. His turquoise eyes drifted lazily over his brother and he frowned, his black brows coming together. "Ezekiel? Are you all right?"
Ezekiel blinked a few times, trying to rid his chocolate eyes of the tears that had filled them at the sudden return of his long lost colors. He found his throat suddenly home to his heart as emotions beat at him.
He had found his lifemate! She was real and alive and a complete miracle.
His gaze slowly lifted to meet his brother's and he was finally able to feel the strong affection he held for the older Carpathian. "I found her 'Lij…my seer. She's here."