It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood. / Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak. / Augurs and understood relations have / By magot pies and choughs and rooks brought forth / The secret’st man of blood.
What I tell you now has no home.
Some secrets wander never shared, never given bed in those fissures called the hearts of other people. Mine has wandered a long time, nearly as long as I have lived—and that is a very long time, indeed.
It is time for my secret to find its home.
I choose you, my friend. I choose to tell you of my past, of the long and terrible history that bled and burgeoned to become the family called the Night Children.
We are a strange family, are we not? What else could issue from Nox Eterna, the Blood King?
I now tell the secret that has no home: hear the tale of the Night Children, of me, and how I came to be.
My first memories are not what they should be. I am aware that I was a young man once, a simple human scholar, reading the stars and raising a brood barely younger than I. That is, after all, how it was done in those days: once one could create children, one did.
All that remain are single images, mental snapshots, viewed in sepia as if from a great distance, and these images came to me at great price. I do know this much: I was born, but later, I was made.
The ones who made me took me from my young family. They took me from my studies, from the protected city which I knew, and they changed me. They gave me to the stars I loved in a way no one had been given before. They filled me with hunger so keen it is alive and unceasing. They birthed me into new and unending life through pain.
There are times I have wondered what difference it makes to be born through torment. My sepia dreams of the changes done to me are accompanied by such agony – but of course, I did not at first remember them, and so my question is likely moot.
My first real memory – real, in color, with all senses engaged – was waking in the woods and finding that I lay under stars I loved but could not name, waking and finding that the night was not dark, waking and finding that all mattered was hunger.
The hunger is a beautiful Beast, as intoxicating and treacherous as aged and herb-touched wine. I woke, and I hungered; the Beast became me. The Beast became all that I was.
I ran through the woods. Trees, shadows, darkness, every sound and heartbeat and gasp belonged to me, from the tiniest spider to the largest bear. I wanted them all, to feel them pulsing against my lips and down my throat in some way I had yet to determine.
The first thing I caught was a deer, a magnificent specimen with enviable horns, and though it fled from me, I was faster yet.
Oh, I was far from stealthy. I crashed through the underbrush as though ripping up the world by its roots, and finally tackled the mighty creature to the earth and – heeding instinct – buried my teeth in its hide.
Ah, my friend, my friend, the blood! Glory, bliss, sweet, tangy, powerful, every cell filled with something I could not name. As I drank, for the briefest moment, I knew myself to be strange. Blood did not taste like this; it ought to be… something different. It was a lingering memory, a flutter from a dying neuron. I had tasted blood in the past; I knew I had, even though my past was lost to me… but then, that, too, faded, and I recalled nothing more than this.
The Beast tasted blood, and it became his one true love: his beloved, to be embraced and savored and enjoyed until ever became evermore and always! The blood was all!
Then came the cold, strange shock of dead blood as the deer’s heart stopped, and I – the Beast – knew the horror of rejection. It was inglorious cold, the harshness of blood that no longer spoke or sang, already thickening perceptibly to sludge and tasting of foulness and the grave. I turned away from the corpse with a cry and vomited some of what I had taken. The memory of bliss hurt.
Why had it left me?
There was more blood in the woods – all the heartbeats in the world, moving together in a canto of love and proffered desire. The deer was quite destroyed, but it was true that there were others, and besides – did not all men experience the loss of love at some time in their lives?
Strange that I knew that, and yet knew no name for myself. However, I did not question. All my thoughts pooled in a chalice, rippling with unhindered passion and void of words. I needed no words! I was stronger and faster than any creature, and all I desired was to sate my hunger.
In spite of my hunger, I could not feed again that night. Blood’s betrayal was still too chilling. When the sun rose at last, it rendered me hot and dry-eyed. Responding to my Beast’s need in the simplest way, I dug through the soft, rich loam of my new birthplace, pulled it in after me, and hid beneath the ground.