Part I – Rebirth

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The priest was worried. The sun had already set. It was steadily getting darker. The horses were running as fast as they could. The carriage was rushing down the mountain paths with furious speed. It was almost dangerous.

My worst fears will come true! Oh heavens! Protect your children!

The priest was becoming very agitated. His fellow passengers were exchanging worried looks and feeling sorry for him. The carriage had entered the forest, away from the open path. It was pitch dark. From whatever light the coachman could muster from his lantern, he drove on.

But the priest was losing focus. He kept looking at the dark skies and muttering to the wind. The terrains of this land carried unfortunate stories of death and doom from ages old and the priest’s warnings of apocalypse was making his fellow passengers uneasy.

Shut up old man. You are scaring the children. Calm down. It’s all good.

You do not see. My child, you do not see! Oh heavens, why do they not see? Why did it have to be like this? I’m weak and old, I cannot save your children. Oh help me Father! Make them see what I see! This is the end! The Strigoi shall rise tonight!

This dramatic revelation by the priest was met with stunned silence from the crowd. Only the footsteps of the horses and the howling of the wind could be heard as they all looked at each other in alarm. The people of Keatsville had heard many stories about their lands as they grew up. Some were beautiful, some were inspiring, and some were tragic. They loved and cherished every one of those. But there were also the legends that were nowhere near as comforting as these other stories. Legends that nobody dared discuss or make light of. They were spoken in hushed voices, in safer confines and in broad daylight, if at all they needed to be spoken of. So when the priest screamed of Strigoi in the cursed forests engulfed in omnipresent darkness, every soul in the carriage froze. The coachman lost his grip on the horses and the carriage collided with a tree trunk at extreme speed. The lanterns flew into the dark and fell somewhere in the wet ground. Whatever little light they had left, was gone. It was complete and utter darkness now.

The horses were making an almighty racket. The priest was screaming of Armageddon at the top of his voice with everything his lungs could offer. The children were crying. The women and men were terrified of it all. It was a nightmare, or so they thought. Then it happened. The quieter folks could see it clearly. Three pairs of red dots were getting closer and closer from three different directions. As they reached near their carriage, they stopped. They were not just dots. Those were eyes at the height of an average man’s chest. The woods echoed with rhythmic and furious breathing. If those were animals, they had to be gigantic. The air was heavy with fear. The children had stopped crying. The horses had become quiet. The priest, though, was still relentless.

In death and in life, his light shines upon us all! No devil can rise before His holy light! He is our father, his mercy is unbound, he will save our light! He will save our souls tonight and banish this evil fr—-

The priest was gone. So were those eyes. The townsfolk were shaking. They could see the red eyes running away in the distance. One guy had stumbled upon a lantern. He lit it and held it high. The beasts were heading towards the old ruins. Without wasting a second more, they picked their children and began to run the rest of the distance towards Keatsville.

The beasts had taken the priest to the Ruins. Everybody called the place the Ruins. There was a time when it was a part of the town and people used to live there. But then something happened. Nobody knows for sure what but the Keatsville legend has its own version of events. Since then, the place has been abandoned and a dense forest had sprung up separating it from the main town. Nobody ever goes there.

The moon was bright. The beasts were slowing walking past desolate buildings. They were searching for something. They were sniffing and growling. The priest was lying on the biggest of the beasts. He was unconscious, his rosary still hanging from his hand. Slowly, the procession reached the end of the Ruins. They were staring anxiously at the structure in front of them. It was a church. The beasts invited themselves in and made their way towards the altar. There was a passageway on the left leading towards the basement. They growled in joy. They could sense something. They made their way down. There was a coffin. It was covered in numerous layers of dust. It had not been touched in decades, centuries probably. The priest could not see what happened next. One of the three beasts was shaking. Its bones were breaking, one-by-one. It was writhing in agony. Its growls were reverberating throughout the Ruins. And then it stopped. The beast was gone. There was a naked man standing in its place.

He took the priest from the top of the biggest of the beasts and put him beside the coffin. The moonlight was seeping into the room. Slowly, he pushed the coffin open. A strong foul stench made that man recoil violently. He recovered quickly and began slitting the wrist of the priest open. He was collecting his blood. The rosary fell from the priest’s hands and that woke him up. He looked in horror from the unknown man to the two beasts standing beside him near the coffin. No words came out of his mouth. The man laughed an eerie laugh. Soon he was done with the old man and rose to his feet. He poured the blood inside the coffin and turned back into a beast again, right in front of the priest. His painful transformation and his subsequent form were too much for the priest as he began to shout and scream in horror and run wildly towards the door. The beasts growled in amusement, let him escape and then chased him playfully. He ran up the stairs and through the aisle, blood pouring out profusely from his wrists. He was in immense pain. His head was throbbing madly. By this time, the beasts felt hungry. They were done playing. The biggest of the three pounced on him for the final strike. The other two roared in appreciation. The sight inside the church was ungodly. But suddenly the two other beasts became very quiet. The priest was shouting away madly as the largest beast held him in his paws but he too was distracted.  There was a swift movement outside the gates of the church. A second later, both the beasts were nailed to two opposite walls of the aisle in arrows. The largest beast growled in sheer fury. The entire Ruins was trembling with its anger. The beast was mad. He threw the priest to the walls and began searching around for the perpetrator.

His light is bright and beautiful; he shines it on his children in times of joy and sorrow. Lycaon can never stand against His light! Never! Light shall prevail! Forever!

The beast had had enough of his babblings. He growled in fury and opened his mouth wide to dig his teeth deep into his neck. Then it froze. A young man was standing in front of him.

It was me. I killed your two little henchmen. They were rather cute, weren’t they? Hope you didn’t mind much. So, how goes your little night-out?

The beast was trembling with hair-raising anger. It growled an incredible grown and lunged for him with blood lust. It was dead the next second.

Yo, granddad, calm down. Tell me what all has happened so far.

They have the blood! They fed him the blood! I have failed! I have failed Him and his children! Oh Father!

Okay, okay, calm down gramps! Just tell me where they have kept him.

But you cannot see! And how do you know about this? Who are you my son? WHO ARE YOU?

I’m John Keats The 20th. And jeez, you’re making me late! Just tell me where his body is!

But you do not see! You do not see! He is about to rise! Lycaon is about to rise! There is nothing you and your family can do now! I have failed your family as well! I have failed everyone! He’s down there, he’ll be here soon! Oh father, I’ve failed everyone! I don’t deserve your mercy!

Took you long to say that. You speak far too much. And just so you know old man, I can see as well.

The priest became suddenly quiet. There was a rush through the church. The air had become far too thin to breathe. There was a chill sweeping through the place. It made the hair at the end of the skin stand. As John Keats turned around, Lycaon was standing in front of him, holding the priest’s heart in his hand.

Well now, kiddo, so can I.

Shit.

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