It was ten minutes to midnight by the time Alaric’s car rolled to a stop at the end of the mansion’s paved drive. Alone and unarmed, as had been implied in Kharon’s demand for his presence, the young hunter emerged from the driver’s seat and carefully began making his way up the sprawling lawns towards the front doors, passed the statues and fountains and well maintained hedges and stepping up onto the porch.
As he reached out for the brass knocker hanging on the door, it swung open to reveal the figure which had been standing on the other side.
The Dhampir framed in the doorway was small with the appearance of a child of no more than 10, dressed in loose white clothing not unlike what one would find making up the majority of their pajamas with pale hair so blonde that it was almost white and all of the color leeched out of him. From his hair and his skin and his eyes; chilling achromatic orbs which regarded him from their positions set beneath a curtain of uneven bangs. The boy stared for a while and then he smiled, unveiling inch long canines.
“You are the one that Kharon invited? Alaric?”
It took him a few moments to force his body to respond, nodding. “Yes, I am the hunter that Lord Kharon invited here.”
“Good, you’re right on time.” He stepped aside to allow Alaric through the door, shutting it behind him with a quiet clank that rang with finality. “My older brother is in the study upstairs. Please, come with me.” The bleached-out shade lead him up a nearby staircase and down a hallway lined with dusty tapestries and suits of armor to push open a door. “He’s arrived, brother.”
The Guild Leader looked up from what he’d been doing, pushing his chair back and getting to his feet. “Than. If you’re here, that must mean mother has returned as well. Where are our brothers?”
“Waiting. For you,” the colorless eyes turned on Alaric again, “and him. Mother has not arrived yet, but she will shortly. It’s best that all be ready then.”
“Very well, head back downstairs. Our guest and I will be along in just a moment.” Than nodded and bowed out, leaving Alaric alone beneath Kharon’s icy gaze. “Nervous, hunter? I’d assume that you would be, knowing you’ll soon be standing before a being whose power rivals that of God himself.” Moving out from behind the desk, the Dhampir approached him and it took every ounce of Alaric’s will not to retreat from him in fear. “You’re reluctant, now, for you still cling to the worthless thing you call a soul. But once you’ve had a taste of power that comes with our favor, you’ll forget all about that.”
“Power was never something that I wanted, Kharon. I’m here to protect those whom you have threatened from you!”
“You say that now but the temptation will become too much to resist given time,” the Vampire replied with an air of smug assurance. “Regardless of your reasons, it was most wise of you to take my threat to heart because it wasn’t an empty one. Let us hope that your wisdom holds out: it is best for you and all of those whom you care about that the relationship between the two of us remains one of friends.”
Friends? If the opportunity would have presented itself Alaric would have gladly thrown him into a vat of boiling holy water. “I understand.”
Again with the sickly sweet smile of a serpent, his hand coming to rest on his shoulder as he pulled him along out of the room and back to the lower level. Here, he was lead to a large open sitting room patterned in shades of gold and red; standing at the front of the room atop a raised set of stairs was what looked like a throne.
Located in different positions throughout the room were Kharon’s brothers, Than-standing to the right of the empty throne-and four others that he didn’t recognize. A tall, pale black-clad man was reclined in a chair with his legs propped up on an ottoman and a leashed Malform crouching at his feet, red eyes fixed on Alaric as it drooled onto the floor. In another chair was a young man with brown hair and, behind it with his arms wrapped around the other’s shoulders, was his perfect double aside from the fact that he was possessed of the yellow eyes of a snake. A fourth and final man, red haired and red eyed, was passed out drunk face down on a nearby couch.
“Our mother, the Dark Lady, shall arrive here at any moment. When she does I suggest that you show the proper respect lest she strike you dead where you stand; kneel and be silent.”
Kharon barely had time to complete his warning before a powerful wind threw the doors of the room wide and a screech owl flew in, fluttering its large wings sharply as it dropped low to the ground before transforming from a bird into a woman.
Tall and willowy with skin like purest moonlight and black hair, so long it was a wonder that she didn’t trip over it, like darkness-woven silk Lilit was possessed of a shadowed beauty and a cold oppressive aura to match. Her black dress, form fitting down the length of her frame but flaring outwards at her feet, pooled around her like night stained water as she turned to face him.
Her gaze alone was enough to take the feet from beneath even the bravest of men.
She did not have a pupil, nor any iris to speak of. The eyes of the Dark Mother were solid black, scattered intermittently with points of white like the shining stars painted into the heavens above. Galaxies, fluid and vast, twisting through her gaze. Universes coiling together and coming undone across the eternal night of her stare. It was as breathtaking as it was sinister and even looking upon her filled him with fear.
“Rise, mortal, and approach me.” Her voice was soft and smooth but rang through the room like earth-shaking thunder. Powerful and forcing compliance. Dazedly, feeling almost disconnected from the reality of what was going on around him, Alaric got to his feet and crossed the length of the room towards her. “So you are Kharon’s latest pledge? Fresh blood to the Dark Hunters; those who work behind the scenes for the right to a place in our empire? I know of his plans for you, and know that you will serve his ends well.” Her hand extended, fingers unnatural in their length and skin and tipped in claws. “Give me your hand.”
Not even the thought of resistance could be had under the power of her gaze and the starkness of what was truly going on only began returning when he felt the pain of her razor teeth slicing into the skin of his wrist; seeming to sense the thought of pulling away even as it cross his mind, a chorus of warning hisses rang out from the gathered Lords behind him.
The bite lasted only the matter of a few moments before she released him, but where he expected teeth marks he found that a rune had been etched into his flesh instead. With the dark liquid still smeared across her lips, the Queen of the Damned flashed her fangs at him in a chilling smile.
“Bine ati venit la corupţi. Welcome to the night.”