About This Book
My friend, I ask that you pardon my strange manner of storytelling. You have asked me how I came to be. This is the manner of my birth: in joy, tears, and blood. Beloved, Notte, by bestseller Ruthanne Reid.
The father of all vampires tells his 20,000-year tale…
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Cursed to become a weapon to destroy mankind, Notte has a long path ahead of him. He was designed to be infectious and designed to be violent, but his creators forgot one thing.
They forgot to remove his soul.
Excerpt from Chapter One
I was a young man once.
No – that is not how to begin this. Permit me to begin again.
I was a young human.
It is all to easy to forget that part of my history, to elide it, as though I had always been as I am now, as if my monstrousness was born of stars and exploding plasma. That is the way with my family: we are all born, and later, we are made.
I was a human, a man, yet I recall very little of it; and this is not due to the distance of time between then and now. No: it is due to those who took me and made me into the first, into this, into the father of all night.
I have never told of this before – not all, not bared and bloodied and bold. Well. I can at least manage two of those, yes?
Let me begin again.
I was a young man once, and prosperous enough for the era. Though I now know that the First War had begun nipping at the edges of my tightly woven world, my people knew nothing of it, for we were removed from the fighting.
I had a walled city which kept me safe from dumb beasts; I had a magic-fueled dome which kept me safe from more esoteric predators. I had a small government which protected me, trading with local Fey and other neutral Peoples, who accepted our handwoven cloths and finger-marked ceramics with the delight of “developed” nations for the empirically crude.
I charted stars and used them to tell false futures. I worshiped presumptive gods, who interfered not at all in my life, nor I in theirs. I wed when bid, and sired – I think – three children.
I do not recall their faces.
Not one face is left to me from those days. I recall the pulse of laughs, of voices issuing from disquietingly smooth pates, but the words are lost to me forever. No, not lost. The words were taken.
As was I.
The night they came, I suspect I lacked suspicion. Those brief, bleached memories carry no hint of fear, anticipation, or warning.
Perhaps I have begun wrong again, for at the time of my waking – my true waking – I had none of these memories to call or conjure, none of these sensory paths to point my way. Yet if I do not begin here – with what was lost, before I even knew it had been taken – you will not understand why my true waking was so strange.
I woke under stars I loved but could not name.
There, in a smoking and charred clearing, I lay and gazed at them, amazed by the sudden, sparking beauty of silver points in black. I had no words in my head. None. I wondered not at all at this, for I did not remember having them in the first place.
I did know longing. Something ached here, in my chest, a deep and hollow throbbing that seemed weightier than all of myself, but I recalled no time when it had been filled – and so it simply was.
Acrid smoke disrupted my peace. It wafted between me and the stars, stealing my view, and enraged, I rose to kill it and make it stop.
Grasping and snapping at smoke did nothing to change it, but the movement did make me aware that I felt pain. Bits of wood extruded from my body as if with a will of their own. I rubbed at the wounds, irritated by them; I did not like them. I shook myself. Clawed at those burning places until the wooden shrapnel was removed, and thought nothing of the wounds healing at once.
This clearing had been opened by something hot and violent, flattening the closest trees, streaking the dark earth with soot. And now, I noticed the bodies. They were all dead, and so held no interest for me then, but I remember what I saw: torn people, gutted people, people whose faces lay shocked some feet apart from their heads, and not one of them was human. Scales, horns, the unearthly beauty of the inhuman – all of that was still on display, though all life had ceased.
I did not care about them. I did not care about the wood anymore. I did not care about the stars anymore, either, for something else had caught my eye. At the edge of the explosion, a part of the ground moved.
It was a hatch, opening from below and struggling with the weight of detritus that landed upon it. And the moment it opened, the very moment, I heard the most beautiful sound I could imagine – one which is still beauty to me, and the perfection of rhythmic grace.
I heard a beating heart.
Instinct took over, instinct filling the emptiness of ignorance and void, and in the space of a blink I reached that hatch to wrench it open. I did not think to wonder at my strength, that tossing large rocks and felled trees from it cost me nothing, that it required no effort to simply lift it all away and tear the metal hatch from its hinges. All I knew was that heart, and what it told me to do.
The poor fool within had not expected to be hunted by his creation, but surely there is poetry in this moment? He’d helped to make me, helped to rape what I was until nothing remained, helped to imprint perfect predation upon this formerly human shell, and perhaps that is why, when I pulled him out of the ground, he showed no shock.
Upon his twisted face was shame.
I saw no more of it, for the heartbeat told me where his pulse was sweet, and I tore into it like a dog into a bag of meat.