Chapter 1: The Chase

I marched down the streets of London, a pack of hunters at my back. Doors shut ahead of us as people hid away. Nobody wanted to be caught in the way of a witch-hunting party. The flicker of our torches sent shadows retreating into the nooks between the houses and in doorways. Dark windows peered down at us from the second floor of the houses on the street, leaning out over the streets as if curious of our motives.

I thought I might really have something. When my father, an Anglican pastor, had given me the task of hunting down the unholy witches and other allies of the devil, I the dutiful son, had taken to the task wholeheartedly. But thus far, my father considered me a failure. Because I was not as quick as him to see the devil where he did not exist. But this time, I was sure I had something. A real coven of vampires. They lived in the sewers, of all places. I had watched them for weeks now. They only came out when they had to feed. I had my proof. I told my father and went to rid the world of their evil with his and the church's blessing. Now, all we had to do was wait. Wait until one of the beasts showed themselves.

"Spread out," I ordered the crew, when we came to the entrance to their underground lair, a drain cover in an alley between two shops. "Stay out of sight and keep quiet. When one comes out, wait for my signal."

The men nodded and spread out. The tension buzzed in the air. The men were anxious, that much was obvious. I had told them we were dealing with a vampire, possibly more, but I had not told them exactly how sure I was that this was the real thing.

We sat for a long time in darkness. The torches we put out so we did not alert their attention. The reek of London in 1640 hung heavy in the air. There was no breeze in London. The houses, so crammed together, would not allow it.

Finally, the drain cover moved. It slid away with no effort or struggle, supported by a pair of ghostly pale hands. The men hidden with me behind a stack of barrels around the corner from the entrance tensed forward, ready to spring on the monster. But I put my arm out, holding them back. We could not alert the monster when he still had time to retreat into his den.

The vampire looked around middle-age, but weak. In the dark of the night, his eyes looked just as black, but I do not think I would have been able to tell the difference if they had been blue or green. It was not his dark eyes that told me he was weak, it was his body language. He held his hand to his face, clasping his nose and mouth, as if he were repulsed by a smell. But that could not be so, he lived in the sewers. My theory was that he was trying to keep control. The city was rank with the smell of thousands of humans. To remain inconspicuous, he needed to be careful about who he attacked. The vampire called down the hole in Latin, something I did not quite catch.

I waited until the vampire had replaced the drain cover before signaling the charge.

"NOW!" I cried, bursting from our hiding place. The men were right behind me, torches already lit. The vampire spun with inhuman speed, glaring at us for a split second and, and then taking off down the street. We were in hot pursuit.

As I said before, he was weak. He did not run as fast as vampires were rumored to be able to run, so we were able to keep up with him as the other hunters and I chased him through the familiar streets. I had raced down the streets of London as a boy in much the same manner, though I had only been chasing my friends at the time. Still, I knew every twist and turn and shortcut that existed. I soon out distanced my fellow hunters, but I was right on the vampire's heels, and we were coming to a dead end. I had him.

But he seemed to know that. Suddenly, he stopped and turned on me. I was in mid-stride with nowhere to go. He fell on me like a wolf on a sheep. He was impossibly strong. My knife and wooden stake might as well have been goose feathers for all they did on the vampire's skin. He bit me again and again, breaking bones where he gripped. I knew I was going to die.

But at that moment, the rest of the group caught up. The vampire turned to defend himself, attacking the mob. He attacked the men, who were not expecting this, killing two of them before anyone even reacted. The men ran in different directions, leaving the vampire to gorge himself on his prey.