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Book 1, Page 2

The Reckoning

           “Unregistered human population up 300%. Unsanctioned feeding offenses up 90%. Profit losses reported by The Order of Blood Farmers up 24%…”

          Elder Symvoulio of the Symvoulio Clan was reporting the daily updates regarding recent impacts to Frikian society. His monotonic voice and bland appearance were in stark contrast to the lavish marble and stone chamber where the VOF held their meetings. Ornate fixtures and furniture adorned the room, accompanied by breathtaking sculptures and paintings along the walls. The massive windows, which reached up to the cathedral-style ceiling, overlooked the ancient Greece-esque megalopolis of Vrykolakas – the epicenter of all civilization on Friki. The kingdom was a breathtaking sight. Alas, bedlam was beginning to dull its luster.

          “It is painfully apparent a gigantic swell in human trafficking is transpiring,” vampire elder Paratiro of the Paratiro Clan stated. Her confidence and conviction poured through her regal essence. “Vampires and/or werewolves are flagrantly engaging in actions directly violating the laws for usage of the portals to Earth.”

          Fellow VOF member and a vampire scholar, Elder Nomos of the Nomos Clan, added, “As we all know, a delicate balance exists within the blood farming industry. Every regulation from the acquisition, transportation, raising, maintaining, letting, distribution, and selling of humans and their blood must be adhered to without falter or exception. Otherwise, the entire system falls apart.”

          “We don’t need a lesson in legalities, Elder Nomos,” Elder Amvly expressed. His arrogance was matched only by his candid and brazen style of speech. “What we need is to implement immediate resolutions along with substantial safeguards to prevent this from happening again.”

          Elder Nomos replied sharply, “And what is it you suggest, then? You do have actual ideas and not just complaints about what needs to be done, right?” The prideful Elder Amvly brushed off her remarks.

          “Quiet you two.” Elder Ilikiomenos spoke with the wisdom and authority of countless ages. By far the oldest and most senior of all members in the VOF, his voice commanded respect and immediate compliance. After quiet was restored, he continued. “Elder Nomos is correct in her assertion. We cannot risk the sudden rise in trafficking negatively impacting things any further. Individual and minute-sized group violations of these laws normally can be met with swift prosecution and imprisonment to quell further incidents. However, with the ostensible size of the situation at hand, things are exponentially more dire.”

          “Yes, the Order of Blood Farmers can be a prickly bunch,” Elder Amvly snarkily replied, “but surely the impact of all this will not leave their operations off-kilter for long.”

          Another member, Elder Ethnikistis, in all his stout, vampire glory, interjected, “You would think an overabundance of food would be a good thing.”

          “Not when it puts our entire world at risk,” Elder Epipedo declared as she slowly leaned forward from sitting perfectly upright, mindful to not alter her carefully tailored clan attire or styled hair.

          Her statement was received well by Elder Ilikiomenos. “Precisely,” he retorted, directing the seniority in his voice towards Elder Amvly’s and Elder Ethnikistis’ ignorance.

          “Humans,” Elder Viologos said next. The eyes of his fellow elders all fixed on him as he spoke. He was one of the most intelligent vampires regarding the study of biological species, both domestic and foreign. Elder Viologos had studied every aspect of humans extensively. Therefore, when he spoke about mankind everyone listened intently, and the sight of his chiseled face expressing worry instead of confidence quickly resonated within the VOF meeting chambers. “The greatest threat we now face is the potential threat of Earth’s backlash if they are not complicit in this, which I highly doubt they are.”

          A concerned Elder Nomos inquired, “Surely, they would never move to dissolve the Treaty of Worlds, right?”

          “Humans, with their overzealous righteousness and god complexes…” The words of Elder Perifrono of the Perifrono Clan oozed disdain for mankind. A sentiment shared by many inhabitants of Friki and members of the VOF. His stern demeanor and rigid body language spelled his very nature as he continued, “There is no telling what they will do.”

          Elder Epipedo remarked, “I imagine the masses on Earth learning some their leaders have been exchanging groups of their species over thousands of years for metals and stones they deem precious, but we have an overabundance of, would spell disaster. Especially after discovering their myths about demonic creatures are more than what their leaders persist are age-old fables.”

          True concern captivated Elder Nomos. “To nullify our trade agreement made millennia ago, that would be…”

          “… Human,” Elder Viologos said. “Despite how we would like to believe we are above reproach and humans are not, both species are identical in our proclivity for war and adeptness for violence. Now, considering their massive population advantage, it would not take much strategy or inspiration for them to quickly mount a defense and cease our importation of their kind. Or, if they were so inclined, I can confidently say they would not hesitate to use the portals to mount an offensive against us here on Friki.”

          “We would be overrun and decimated, even with the superior physical advantages of vampires and werewolves alike,” Elder Paratiro said.

          Elder Ilikiomenos placed his hands on the lavish marble table the VOF was seated at. With heightened gravity, he motioned to every member and pronounced, “We must ensure the egregious human trafficking ceases as soon as possible. This task is of the utmost importance for all of us.”

          Elder Amvly followed with, “Yes. All of us. Yet, our king is nowhere to be found.”

          Following the pejorative commentary rose a calmer, more objective voice. It was Elder Syngen Yios of the Yios Clan. Syngen was a well-respected member of the VOF despite being much younger than the others. He was appointed his seat far earlier than normal, as a tragic incident saw the entirety of his clan slain mercilessly. Syngen was the only survivor. He also was the closest of all the VOF members to Belmont. “Elder Amvly, I say this with all due respect as the bond our clans share extends far beyond my years, but lest you dare commit treason for speaking with mal intent against our ruler, I would advise you to remember why the king’s absence is excused.”

          “Yes,” Elder Amvly snapped cynically. “Our king is on an official Frikian quest confidential in nature.

           Over the years as he did with the werewolves, Belmont secretly sought a way to make peace with humans and partner with them as an allied species instead of continuing their transactional partnership. A deep sympathy was birthed inside the king, for he experienced first-hand the darker side of dealing in human trafficking. The tearing apart of families resonated with him. The image of humans’ eyes overflowing with terror as they gazed upon vampires, realizing their most horrific nightmare lived in the flesh, was unshakeable. Witnessing human babies being born into captivity on Frikian blood farms, and then commercialized and sold for profit, carved a hole into his conscience. Conversely, it was for this reason Frikian law strictly forbid fraternizing or socializing with humans in any capacity. Yet, Belmont could not help but marvel at their unique existence, which ultimately led him to form surreptitious friendships with a select few over time. Naturally, this further nurtured his sympathy for mankind. In addition, witnessing the ever-growing avarice of some human leaders partnering with Frikian elders to conduct the trade created an immensely undesirable aura surrounding their partnership.

           Thus, Belmont set out to find an alternative solution the vampires and werewolves could consume instead of humans. Historically, their distant ancestors feasted on the meat and blood of the beasts and monsters of their planet. However, once the portals were discovered and the delectability of humans was experienced, no other source of sustenance was accepted. Furthermore, human flesh and blood was more nutritious for them, and also provided incredible boosts to the vitality and physical wellness of their species. Nevertheless, Belmont was determined to liberate mankind from the bondage that enslaved them since their world collided with his, and it was in the depths of the VOF archives the king found hope for his quest.

           Upon scouring ancient documents, Belmont discovered records describing a substance unknown to him or anyone on Friki. It was produced by the planet as a natural resource, and it was recorded as being a primary means of nourishment for ancient vampires and werewolves. It was called aima – a liquid akin to water but thicker in composition and brimming with unique properties. However, all traces of it vanished from the records quickly after it was recorded.

           Belmont knew if he could locate a well-spring of aima, he would be able to present his case to the VOF and all of Friki for them to cease human trafficking, enabling the two species to coexist peacefully, securing a future for the human race without fear of being hunted, enslaved and consumed. With no mention of a location or even a hint of its origin, though, the mission to obtain aima was beyond a tall order. This did not diminish Belmont’s resolve, however. The king made it his life’s mission to bring aima to the kingdoms.

           Belmont also knew his quest needed to remain a secret from the rest of the VOF, as many of them and members of their clans harbored special interests. Numerous vampires on all levels of society had a personal, if not financial, stake in the success of the human trafficking trade. Blood generated wealth beyond one’s wildest imagination for some vampires, making them incredibly powerful and influential. The business of farming and selling human meat by the werewolves did the same for many of them, as well. If word of a substance that would eliminate this wealth reached the specific parties who would suffer financial loss, it was certain they would do everything in their power to destroy it, regardless if the act itself defied a direct decree from Belmont as their king. Threats of imprisonment or even death would hold no power over them. They would act to protect their selfish interests at any cost. Therefore, Belmont embarked on his quest alone and uttered a word to no one.

           For decades, Belmont searched the planet of Friki whenever his schedule permitted. Then, he continued his search even when his schedule did not. Belmont became consumed with his quest for aima, to the point many within the VOF felt he was neglecting his duties as their king. The fact they knew not of the quest’s purpose, nor had an iota of detail regarding its nature, did not help his standing with the vampire elders, either. Nevertheless, the king forged on with unwavering dedication to his ultimate task, and it was this which caused him to be absent from the meeting with the VOF to discuss the human trafficking catastrophe Friki was facing.

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