CANNAE Italy, 2 August 216 BC
The Carthaginians pushed forward in full strength on the great supremacy of the Romans. They were just surrounded by a smaller military force led by the second in command Hasdrubal, who with his Punic armed forces would do everything in its power to enlarge the chaos that reigned among the Romans.
Hasdrubal wasn’t himself anymore. A force that was strange for him flowed through his veins. He saw the war scene through other eyes. He smelled the panic in the enemy ranks. The disorder of the defense they had attacked was obvious. He led his Punic infantry further in the bloody battle.
With astringent cries, every soldier of his camp fought for the victory. Hasdrubal himself, stabbed and carved. He saw limbs fall off, blood spouted out of open wounds. Mercy was an unknown word, it only served weaklings. At some places, they were harassed by spear throwers, but these places were in a minority.
Most of the Latin people were in a panic by the charges from Hasdrubal’s men upon the close group of the foot-soldiers. These were trying to save their lives in the midst of a disorganized mess. The Roman infantry was trapped. They were chopped into meat by a mischievous maneuver from the hand of the second in command of Hannibal. Completely surrounded there was no hope for them.
Hasdrubal not only saw the blood flow. He also heard it speak in a language he alone understood.
‘Nothing can touch you. Taste the power in the red color of the blood. Tear your enemies apart and drink their life, gulp after gulp, and swig after swig. Your blood rage only can be satisfied by slaughtering every Roman till the last is dead.’
The voice had led him in the last days. He didn’t know when it had started, however, suddenly she was there. Forcing and controlling, sometimes softly whispering in his head, another time loud and incentive, cursing and raging as a wild devil. His thoughts were filled with red. Rivers full of streaming life water, where he could satisfy his thirst in his dreams. A strong desire was growing in him, stronger than all is instincts, bigger than all his other basic needs. He must and he would drink of his enemy or he would go down in the turmoil of battle while trying.
Suddenly a bit further on, he saw the Roman Consul Paullus sitting on a stone. His head wounded and without a horse. One of his men offered him his horse, but the Latin refused. A red mist raised before Hasdrubal’s eyes and he hurried to the wounded man. The Consul could do nothing against the rage that flowed out of the hands of Hasdrubal. The once so glorious Consul Paullus was slaughtered as a pig in a few moments. Hasdrubal didn’t stop, he kept stabbing and licked the blood of his enemies of his lips. A taste that made him crazy, still craving for more. He had no time to act as he would like to. Digging himself into the meat of the dying victims and suck them empty till there wasn’t a drop of blood left in them.
The red blood rage had found a new body, a shell it allowed to satisfy his thirst for a short moment in this bloodbath of tens of thousands Romans in a battle people would remember for centuries. Hasdrubal knew that after this battle, he had to find another objective. The beings of the night, his old mother had warned him for when he was a boy. Those monsters with their very sharp fangs. Creatures of the night, inhabitants of the dark. When he thought about these nightwalkers, his own blood boiled, his anger was beating in his head with a hammer. From tomorrow, he would have another enemy. He wouldn’t find peace before he had shed their blood.
Daniël Ainsworth had done what the voice had ordered him. He had set fire to his cabin log. All traces of his despicable human deeds had to be destroyed. The urge to set a trap for and abducting people wasn’t there anymore. It was replaced by a scorching hatred against vampires. Daniël would never have known how he could trace these nightly creatures. It didn’t matter. Vladimir Sango, the man he now was, knew.
His new identity had flowed through him just as the blood that ran through his veins. He was to his bone marrow Vladimir Sango. Even when he looked in the mirror, he didn’t recognize the crooked smile he always had. He asked himself about the scar that ran from his left earlobe to the corner of his mouth. How had he got this? A souvenir of that inferior life of this body, he resided in now… a thing of no importance.
Night had fallen in Horseville. Not from one moment to another. Some maybe would describe it that way. Vladimir had heard the blackbird singing another song than in the morning. Deep in thoughts, he had followed the flying crows that sought a sleeping place for the night in the crowns of the high trees. Even the rats he heard tripping, searching in the dark for something to nibble on. Some rotting meat of a dead street cat or that body of this hobo who people will find under the bridge at the river. The man had died from drinking inexpertly distilled alcohol. Vladimir smelled the vapors of the toxic methyl alcohol that lingered around the body of the dead man.
He also heard the conversations between the prostitutes and their potential clients. The rustling of the paper money that changed from his owner. The smell of their body fluids that flowed by night. A time when gentle family men became hunters and tried to regain their lost and youthful virility while practicing their darkest fantasies. He heard the muttering laughs of the well-behaved daughters and sons, just escaped for a moment from the supervision of their parents, walking the dark edges of the society.
Vladimir pricked up his ears. This was it, the sound he was waiting for. A soft noise, like sliding silk against a body. The sound of movements, mortals would never recognize. A vampire had put his teeth in someone’s neck. However, he would keep under tight control this call he was hearing, the urge that threatened to overpower him. For now he would let the nightwalker do his thing, he would let this scornful creature drain his victim. The last treat he offered to the vampire without his knowing. Vladimir would follow the man on his raid, wherever his way would go. This friend of the devil would lead him to the nest of him and his friends, his kindred. There Vladimir Sango would strike without mercy.
The night lasted long and the vampire had an extremely great appetite. Almost every two hours he scored a new victim. One time it was a young woman who, after some overtime was walking at home. She didn’t even scream when the vampire pulled her into a dark alley and put his fangs in her white neck. Another time it was a greybeard who was making a walk with his dog before he went sleeping, an old man who couldn’t defend himself. He just broke the neck. The woman of the old man would wait in vain for his return laying in her bed. Again a few mysterious disappearances. A trail Vladimir could follow as the best. Even if modern nightwalkers didn’t leave traces like in the past. The fact people vanished in certain places was already a sign of him. He marked those spaces during the day with a red x on a map. All of them town with an alarming number of unsolved crimes.
Sometimes, after a while, a certain number of the victims were recovered. One made heavier with stones and dumped in the river, another buried in a backwater. People didn’t believe in vampires anymore. And so it was no surprise that they overlooked the two little wounds in the neck of the unfortunate mortals. Maybe a lone hand would notice, but it was denounced as crazy or tales from a no one who liked to attract attention by telling unbelievable stories. The naivety of people surprised Vladimir. All they believed in was the magic of technology, it had become their new deity.
He wouldn’t have to wait long for daylight now and he felt the impatience of the prey he was following. A primary fear he could smell. The nightwalker thought about the morning sun and what it meant for him if he couldn’t hide in time. Would he arrive in time at his nest? Vladimir hoped his prey had calculated well, otherwise the waiting would have been in vain.
He reduced the distance between him and the vampire. The man made practically no sound while he rushed along streets and through alleys. Vladimir hid in a portico when he saw the man stopping before an uninhabited lot. There were shelves upon the windows and on the wall and the door graffiti was painted. The nightwalker pushed the door open with a bit of effort and disappeared. Vladimir had found the nest!
Still a quarter of an hour to go and the sun would greet a new day with her first beams. Slowly he felt the force rising. Like slow-speed flowing lava coming from deep inside to the surface, he felt the anger and the rage increase. He had no difficulty with the heavy door that blocked the building. The scent if death came out of the cellar. Slowly but assured he turned his paces to the cellar door. They knew he was coming. He almost could hear their thoughts. They were trapped like rats in a trap and they realized he was the rat-catcher. His steps echoed on the cellar stairs.
A very long vault, about thirty meters deep, stretched out underground. There were at least fifty of those monsters. With their last forces, they shove away the covers of their coffins, got up and stepped towards him. Started, grim faces looked at him. There also was another glance he could read in their eyes… fear, real anguish.
They were much too slow for him and nonetheless their force was legendary, they were no match against his destructive anger. When the first attacked him, it was raining body parts. He ripped off arms and legs, he bit someone with a sideways snarl in the neck. Nobody escaped his rage. The floor became red with the blood of his enemies. They yelled as pigs that were sliced their throat open. A very fitting comparison, Vladimir Sango thought because that was what they were for him. Nothing more, nothing less.
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere 04/01/2015