A PAIR OF eyes stared hungrily out from the dark shadows. Through the brightly lit opening, the monk watched two boys run down the hill towards the ruins; his lair. He curled and stretched withered fingers in anticipation, skin milky white and almost translucent like old vellum stretched over bone. His breath became shallow and his pulse quickened. He could almost taste the sweet strength of the young blood flowing through their veins. He wanted to rush out to meet them, to sweep them up into his ancient arms, but the light was not his friend and had not been for a very long time, so he contained his urges. Patience was necessary if one was an immortal.
The intensity of the sunlight burned the ancient monk’s eyes and he had to close them for a moment or risk blinding. Typically, at this time of day, he would be slumbering in the dank, cold earth back inside the hill.
He had not always been immortal. He remembered himself, Grigory Lazar, as a child slopping pigs on his family’s meager farm. Fleeing the life of a serf, he became a monk where he developed a reputation for the physical strength his years on the farm had brought him. Not long after, he was recruited into an obscure monastic order. Its sole vocation was to seek out the undead and exterminate them. Father Lazar was known as a proficient hunter within the secret circles of the Russian Orthodox Church and was notorious throughout the realm of the immortals for his skills. He smiled to himself and let out an introspective sigh. He had liked that life.
The voices of the boys became louder as they approached. Lazar opened his eyes to observe their progress. Good, they were much closer now. Soon the wait would be over. He closed his eyes again to shield them from the glare of the relentless sun.
He could remember when he became an immortal with clarity as though it happened only a few days before, not 143 years ago.
Lured to the location of a nest, Lazar and his band of priests and monks—God's exterminators—were ambushed and eviscerated. All were killed except for Father Lazar who was spared and himself turned into the very thing he hated and had vowed to destroy; condemning him to an endless life filled with feeding off the blood of innocents. The irony of his last name being associated with that of the biblical Lazarus whom Christ brought back from the dead and Lazar being reborn as an immortal did not escape him and undoubtedly not his tormentors either.
The hunter/monk could feel the changes occurring inside of him as he slowly transmuted over the course of weeks. Lazar prayed every day for the Almighty to save him. Please spare me this burden! Take me into your arms like my brethren. Each day he felt the ever-growing urge to consume the blood of a living human. Each day he was force-fed a mouthful of blood from one of the immortals own cut wrist. Finally, the day of his total transformation had arrived. The door to his darkened cell opened, then closed. When he lifted his head, he saw a beautiful young woman standing before him.
The frightened girl saw the dirty cassock that he wore and, recognizing Lazar as a monk, she rushed to him desperate, landing on her knees begging for his protection; seeking his blessing. "Please save me, Father!" Those words rang in his ears for years.
There she was looking to Lazar for help even as he fought the uncontrollable urge to gorge on her pristine blood. Seeing such innocent purity brought tears to his eyes.
Lazar held out his hands helping her to rise and stand before him. The scent of her fear filled his nostrils. His face flushed. He could feel his heart race as he reached out and touched her chin. Her mouth quivered, he could see that she was about to say words of thanks but before she uttered a single one he could no longer contain his new cravings. Acting on pure instinct, he opened his mouth and ripped into her neck with the fangs that had been growing over the past weeks.
He tore her throat apart, lapping up the blood as it gushed out and down the hollow of her neck and between her breasts; drenching her bodice a bright, crimson red. The sweet coppery taste of the blood was like honey on his pallet. He wallowed in the gore that was once a perfect body. He became light-headed from the fresh, warm elixir. The blood gave him energy, a vibrancy that he had never felt before. He knew that he could never go back; that he never would want to return to the life of a bleeder. He could feel immortality coursing through his veins, and he liked it.
The sound of the applause that broke out from the immortals who had turned him still echoed in his ears as they emerged from the shadows; surrounding him, welcoming him to their exclusive club of the undead. It was Easter Sunday, 1677, the day that he became a vampire.
Father Lazar opened his eyes as he heard Alexei call out to his younger brother.
They were so very close now.