RATHEGALIA: ENDOWMENT OF BLOOD
Written by Christopher Ikpoh
Illustrations by Junki Sakuraba
Book 4, Chapter 1
A New Vrykolakas
“Look at him, acting as if he is the king’s heir apparent.” Elder Amvly spoke with words of disdain as the VOF watched Elder Syngen Yios deliver their address to the people of Friki atop the steps of Castle Rathegalia in the kingdom’s capital city of Vrykolakas.
Elder Paratiro inquired, “Is that a hint of jealousy I hear in your voice?”
“Never,” Elder Amvly replied defiantly.
Elder Nomos chimed in. “If King Belmont had a child to which he bestowed his power, would you make the same comments?”
“The bastard of the Yios Clan, who was taken in by a sympathetic king stricken with guilt over the massacre of a vampire house, because of his lax laws regulating our food, is not a child born from the king’s loins. They are an adopted bastard; a ward at best,” Elder Amvly sharply retorted.
Elder Paratiro reminded Elder Amvly of an indisputable fact. “Well, that bastard was appointed by our king to rule in his absence. So, for all intent and purposes, Elder Yios is our ruler.”
“For now…,” Elder Amvly expressed in a cryptic fashion.
In the near distance ahead of them, Elder Yios continued to speak with conviction while addressing the vampires and werewolves of Friki. “Therefore, due to the inexplicable rise in illegal human trafficking in our great kingdom, the Vampire Order of Friki declare on behalf of King Belmont and in conjunction with his authority, all blood farms and trading posts are hereby mandated to close indefinitely. We must isolate our existing blood supply to keep it separate from the supply here illegally. Every human within existing blood farms must be tallied and redocumented by the owners of said establishments. The results are then to be submitted to the Order of Blood Farmers, who will compare those submissions to their own independent audits of the blood farms, which will immediately follow. If any establishment is discovered to have a discrepancy in their human population outside of documented, legal human breeding or expirations, the subsequent judgements will be implemented on the blood farming establishment’s proprietors:
“First, ownership of the blood farm will be passed from the proprietors to the Order. Second, a fine of 200% of the blood farms audited annual revenue will be levied on the proprietors to be paid by the proprietors and will be collected for the next 10 generations of all members in the proprietors’ documented family tree, if necessary. Third, no access to human blood will be granted to the proprietors and the next 10 generations of all members of the proprietors’ documented family tree. Any infraction made against these judgements and proven in the court of law will be met with swift prosecution and a life sentence, along with continued enforcement of all judgements. These decrees are made with the full authority of the Crown.”
As the crowd discussed the severe penalties of the VOF’s plan, Elder Syngen continued, “Furthermore, every Frikian is mandated to remain in their homes indefinitely while appointed squadrons of Frikian warriors patrol the kingdom to round up the humans on the loose. In conjunction, the Order of Vampire House Affairs will be conducting thorough interviews with everyone regarding your recent travel, activities, and blood purchases. Anyone seen outside of their home without proper documentation, or anyone who does not abide with the stay-at-home mandate, will be immediately apprehended and face trial with punishment of a life sentence. This decree is made with the full authority of the Crown.”
The crowd erupted in an uproar upon hearing the stay-at-home mandate. They vehemently protested, declaring their freedoms were being taken away, and the VOF had no right to tell them how to live their everyday lives.
Elder Amvly smirked as Frikians heaved their disapproval on Elder Yios. “Looks as if the heir apparent isn’t as beloved as our king.” Elder Nomos and Elder Paratiro both frowned upon hearing his words.
“Frikians, please!” Elder Yios implored the people to calm themselves. Discord continued for some time, though, as he pleaded to address their concerns. “I understand this is not ideal! But it is imperative we find those who are behind the illegal human trafficking, and we need everyone’s cooperation and assistance in helping secure our kingdom and way of life!” His attempts at reasoning with them were for naught. The crowd continued to hurl disapproval and anger at Elder Yios, causing a visceral reaction from him.
“I have lost everything! Everything!” The sound of Elder Yios’ words resonated through the crowd, causing the uproar to subside. The VOF, surprised at his declaration, were also captivated. Everyone listened intently as Syngen continued, “I, more than anyone, know what can happen when undocumented, rogue humans are allowed to roam our kingdom freely. The Yios Clan – my entire family – was slaughtered by the human terrorist group, Coalition of Freedom. Or have you forgotten them already? Has the near extinction of my House fallen by the wayside to your indulging in selfishness and entitlement? Thousands of vampire murders have occurred since the onset of the illegal human trafficking! Is one innocent life worth a temporary pause to your freedom to move about the kingdom as you wish? Is one hundred lives worth it? Thousands? Because that is what will continue to happen if we do not come together and do what is necessary to eradicate this virus plaguing our planet!” Silence overcame the entire mob. The VOF looked on in shock at Elder Yios’ scathing speech. Syngen’s words were poignant and impassioned. They were the truth.
The elder spoke again. “The humans are not here by choice, and they will do whatever it takes to defend themselves while surrounded by predators as they fight to return to Earth. The best way for the VOF to protect you is by staying home and cooperating. We will work through this as fast as possible, I promise you. In the interim, the VOF has approved emergency protocols to ensure everyone is taken care of. Your financial responsibilities are being covered by order of the Crown; all Frikians will not have to be concerned with their debts or daily costs of living. The VOF will work directly with the necessary parties to ensure those who would be receiving payments from the Frikians will do so from the Crown’s treasury during these times. Businesses and vendors will be compensated accordingly with funds determined by their valid, recent quarterly earnings reports. Food and other essential services will be provided free of charge to all registered Houses, and the Order of Blood Farmers will be compensated from the Crown’s treasury, as well. The resources needed to execute these plans are already in place with our existing economic, political, commercial, supply chain, and military infrastructures. The essential parties have been briefed and prepped to begin implementing these decrees immediately. Sacrifices are being made by all, as we are all in this together, and the VOF will not abandon you.”
Syngen’s words were consumed by the Frikian mob as a delectable potion of reassurance and security. They felt safe. They felt provided for. They felt heard and understood. Thus, the mob reverted to compliant citizens who began applauding Syngen’s message. Soon, the applause grew into a jovial raucous. Elder Yios smiled. He had gained the support of the people who were now firmly behind him and the VOF, a notion that was quite displeasing to Elder Amvly. Elder Nomos and Elder Paratiro looked to him for his reaction.
“The mob is easily swayed by sentimentality,” Elder Amvly stated in frustration.
Elder Paratiro replied, “And they are won with sound policy and strong leadership.”
“Indeed, they are,” Elder Nomos added.
Pointing toward the crowd, Elder Amvly stated, “Not all,” before exiting the proceedings. Elder Paratiro and Elder Nomos directed their eyes toward where Elder Amvly pointed. Amidst the cheering crowd was a group of individuals who were not pleased by the words of Elder Yios. They wore scowls on their faces, expressing discontent toward the VOF and what Syngen said.
“Should we be concerned with this?” Elder Paratiro inquired to her counterpart?
“Dissent is not uncommon in these times,” Elder Nomos answered. “Everyone will not agree with our methods or mandates, regardless of us having their best interests at heart. The important thing is our decrees will help them and resolve the chaos at hand. Besides, the kingdom’s warrior squadrons will be patrolling the streets in no time. Vrykolakas and the rest of Friki will be secure.”
“Could they be the dissenters reported to us by Vrykolakas Intelligence? The ones who became active around the time the illegal trafficking is believed to have been started?”
“If they are the vampire extremists spewing false claims the VOF is corrupt, seeking to drive a wedge between us and the kingdom, as well as between vampires and werewolves with anti-werewolf rhetoric, they must be weeded out and dealt with.”
As the crowd dispersed, still jovial from Elder Yios’ speech, the dissenters began to disappear into the mob. Elder Nomos and Elder Paratiro knew it was imperative they keep tabs on them, though. “I will have some warriors follow them.” Elder Paratiro located four undercover vampire warriors amidst the crowd placed to help quell protestors if need be during the address, and once she gained their attention, she motioned for them to follow the dissenters. In a clandestine manner, the warriors proceeded to target the suspicious group of vampires.
As the undercover warriors moved stealthily through the dispersing crowd in the Frikian capital of Vrykolakas, the suspicious vampires became increasingly harder to tail. The group moved hastily, as if they were desperate to reach their destination. Thus, the undercover warriors quickened their pace, employing their stalking tactics with urgency. After much twisting and turning through the back alleys of the capital, the undercover warriors arrived at the location the suspicious vampires sought. Slowly, the clandestine agents crept up to the dilapidated building tucked away in the corner of an isolated section of the city and peered in the window.
Before the undercover warriors was a large group of battered, bloodied humans bound together and terrified. They were being watched over by the suspicious vampires; there were four in total, and once they disrobed their tattered clothes worn to the address by Elder Yios, revealed was an unfamiliar sigil on their cloaks matching the same symbol at the center of King Belmont’s quest. The clandestine agents had seemingly found a hub for transporting humans through the capital city and some of the perpetrators responsible. Therefore, the leader of the Vrykolakas Intelligence group, Dioikitis, turned to the most junior of them and instructed, “Report back to the VOF. Give them this precise location and detail what we have seen.”
The junior agent, Anipsios, replied, “At once.”
However, before the junior agent could depart, Dioikitis grabbed his arm and spoke with emphasis. “Make haste but mind your surroundings. We have no idea where these traitors are. For all we know, we could have infiltrated the epicenter of their hideout.”
“I’m serious,” Dioikitis reinforced. “I’m not explaining to your mother that her brother got her son killed.”
Anipsios replied, “Uncle, I can do this. You were never able to find me as a kid when we played hide-and-seek, remember? I’ll be quick and remain just as hidden.” Then, as stealthily as they arrived, Anipsios left the scene using extreme caution.
Once he was at a safe distance, Dioikitis then turned to the rest of the group. “Elder Paratiro chose us for a reason. This is what we have trained for as Vrykolakas Intelligence. We must not let down the kingdom.” The rest of the clandestine agents nodded in agreement while readying their swords for combat.
Meanwhile, Anipsios used his enhanced vampire speed to swiftly navigate Vrykolakas. It took some time, but once he arrived back at Castle Rathegalia, he rushed into the VOF meeting chambers. His arrival startled the elders who were reconvening after Elder Yios delivered the address.
“What is the meaning of this?!” Elder Ilikiomenos inquired with alarm.
Anipsios was panting from exhaustion, attempting to gather himself as quickly as possible to deliver his message. Elder Paratiro interjected, though. “Elders, it is ok. I sent his team of four to track suspicious individuals spotted in the crowd during the address. Agent, take your time.” Anipsios stood up and breathed deeply. Once he seemed to have collected his bearings, Elder Paratiro asked, “What do you have to report?”
He answered, “We tracked them to a hideout in the Ftochos Sector. There were beaten and bloodied humans bound together.” After another deep breath, he continued, “We also saw the four suspicious vampires wearing an unidentifiable sigil on what appeared to be uniforms of some kind.”
A murmur grew amongst the VOF. “We have found them,” Elder Symvoulio remarked.
As the elders became more animated in their discourse, Elder Ilikiomenos inquired of the junior agent, “Where is the rest of your team?”
“They stayed behind to apprehend the perpetrators,” Anipsios answered.
Elder Perifrono provided his recommendation on a course of action. “We must send reinforcements in case they become outnumbered.”
Elder Amvly responded, “Vrykolakas Intelligence agents are outclassed by none. The three remaining VI will make easy work of four perpetrators.”
“We have no idea if more of the enemy is in the area,” Elder Perifrono fired back. “If they become swarmed, we risk losing these vampires and the humans they are trafficking.”
Elder Amvly adopted a snide tone. “Yes, let us create panic in the Ftochos by sending in an entire squadron of vampire warriors to handle four rogues.”
Elder Ilikiomenos interceded on the argument. “Elder Amvly is correct. We do not want to create panic amongst the residents of Ftochos. We also do not want to let the enemy know we are on to them.”
“I agree,” Elder Yios added. When he spoke, the VOF all became attentive due to his word being final as King Belmont’s proxy. “Elder Paratiro, accompany the agent and another warrior to the site to oversee the transportation of the humans to the nearest blood farm for documenting and storage. I am confident the VI will have taken care of the perpetrators by the time you arrive.”
“At once. Agent, come with me. We depart now,” Elder Paratiro instructed.
“I’m coming with.” Elder Amvly declared his intentions with serious intent.
Elder Nomos retorted, “First, you say we shouldn’t send in too many. Now, you want to increase the party number by adding yourself?”
“I want to see firsthand who it is that has turned our kingdom upside down,” Elder Amvly remarked sharply.
Elder Paratiro looked at Elder Yios for his decision. “It is fine,” Syngen said.
Elder Paratiro shrugged her shoulders, and then spoke as Elder Amvly approached her side. “Let’s just go. Agent…” The three vampires then left the meeting chamber.
Shortly after, Anipsios took Elder Paratiro, Elder Amvly, and the accompanying warrior to the hideout in the Ftochos Sector. “It is just around the corner,” the agent stated as they moved in stealth.
“Impossible…” The site before Elder Paratiro rocked her to her core, as it did to the rest of those present. The leader of the clandestine agents, along with his two counterparts, were tied to posts outside the hideout. They were diced and shredded. “No better warriors exist in all of Friki. For the VI to have been done like this…”
Elder Amvly replied, “Apparently, better warriors do exist.”
Anipsios ran forward towards his team. With tears in his eyes, he hurried to untie Dioikitis from his bondage. “Uncle, it can’t be…” Holding his loved one’s dead body in his arms, Anipsios wept, but only for a moment, as his demeanor suddenly became filled with rage.
Elder Paratiro approached the junior agent and placed her hand on his shoulder, “They will pay for this, agent. We will find them all and bring them to justice.”
“They mutilated them. Look at their bodies!” Anipsios replied.
Elder Amvly looked around and studied the surroundings. Then, he went in the home as Elder Paratiro untied the remaining two VI. After a minute, he exited the building. “Nothing. The tracks lead in all directions, as well. It appears the perpetrators split up and took the humans down all the side streets to mask their tracks. There’s no telling if these footprints are from them or other residents walking by.”
“The enemy we face cannot be underestimated again. They are not only highly organized, but they are highly skilled and extremely dangerous. To desecrate the VI in this way, shows they hold no regard for their fellow vampire, either. This is the result of pure, unmitigated hatred. We must report back at once and increase vampire warrior presence across the kingdom.”