“Angel Of Death”, The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down, Chapter Six: Steps To Nowhere

The horrors from War Hammer’s memories replay in my thoughts. God, how I hate psi-bonding with anyone. It tends to give me migraines. Plus, I cannot seem to get them out of my head after that.

I can hear the screams of the victims. The maniacal laughter of the vampires. The death rattle of each soldier as they die trying to give civilians enough time to flee. The visions, alone, are more than I bargained for.

I try to rest, but do not. My night is spent tossing and turning with my eyes open and brain running ninety to nothing. Will it ever stop? Probably never. I attempt to shrug it off.

Tonight, I do what I have not done in years. I doze. I slip in and out of awareness. This, I do until I finally drift into a restless sleep. Or is it a trance? I am not sure.

In my dimmed vision, I begin to see more than the memories War Hammer had shown me. I see her. Khali. She is Grigori. One far older than Truva, McCall, or even Kalkolides. She is ancient of days.

In her time, she was worshiped as a goddess. Despite her ardent pleas against the act. She is a warrior without equal. Even the angels quiver at her name.

Tonight, she stands at the base of a set of steps that seemingly lead nowhere. I take it this is her home. Her domain. Her sanctuary.

She sees me and smiles. “Welcome, Child.” her mouth does not move, but her voice whispers in my ear despite her distance from me. I realize that she is a telepath.

I look at her, defiant. “What do you wish of me, Great Khali?”

Her smile broadens into a toothy grin. “The ancient council has called you here to me. Parvati. Brahma. Shiva. Zeus. Poseidon. Hades. all those you were told were myths and legend. Those you were told were heathen gods and heroes. But we were never either. We are the ancient council by which the Grigori always made decisions. Unlike the main body of our population, we did not go into exile. We remained to watch over humankind.

“Like the vampires, we remained among humanity, waiting for the day we were needed. Unlike the vampires, we had no desire to destroy man or any of God’s creation. Despite our desires, man set us up as their gods and heroes. He divided us into Pantheons according to his region. Many of us shared many names. Many faces.”

I stare at her. “Get on with what you desire of me, Warrior Queen.”

“Very well.” She turns away. “We understand that you have called the Grigori out of their exile.” I nod. “I see. And were you successful with Truva’s errand?”

I am suddenly beside myself. “Yes…why?”

She turns back to me. “Good. You will need them. A time is coming. A hard time. Dark times.

“War has been brewing since the disappearance of the Grigori. Vampires have become more cohesive. Unified. They have become a nation of lost souls. Diseased souls. Hateful souls.” She waves me forward. “Come and see.”Despite my trepidation, I move forward to see what she wants me to view. As I arrive at her side, she points below. “You desired to see what took place in Savanna and Mobile. Correct?”

I blink. “Yes, but I thought that War Hammer had already shown me–”

She shakes her head. “Granted, War Hammer was in Savanna when it fell, but no. You haven’t seen the full horrors. My soldiers arrived in enough time to allow the majority of those in those cities to escape, but those who refused to leave…well…” her hand waves my view to the swirling mass of whiteness below us.

It swirls, then clears. Like a mirror, The placid surface that has-until now-remained hidden, becomes reflective, but not to my own reflection. Instead, it begins to transport me into the past. To Savanna.

As I wander the streets, I watch as multitudes of people-shape shifter and human alike-flee. Panic has taken hold. In the distance, screams of agony has arisen. Death is all around me.

“People!” A voice rises above the din and I turn in its direction to find Fenrir waving his arms. “Please remain as calm as possible and follow me! Khali will hold the line until we are safely away!”

I watch the masses surge in his direction. I estimate roughly half the remaining population has heeded his call. The rest stand dumbly, refusing to move. I watch him sweep forward and wrap his cloak about a child, whisking her out of harm’s way. Just barely. His praises will be sung for generations to come. If there are any more generations left after this hell.

There is a flash. The scene changes. Those who’d chosen to flee, are safely beyond the city. It has begun to grow dark save for the glow of numerous fires. As the city burns, I can hear the screams of women as they are raped and slaughtered. I look at my feet only to see the piles of dead children lying to either side. Damn. Such a horrible end.

I look up to find men impaled naked upon pikes, just as I remember reading in the history books about Roman punishment and the habits of Vlad The Impaler. I retch. The smells of death and decomposition are massive. Heavy.

The city’s new dark lords have made their point. They will not tolerate life. All will die. If they advance through any more cities, there won’t be many humans alive.

I force myself to look away. In doing so, I find myself still at Khali’s side. “Who is at fault for this?”

She frowns. “Only one name was whispered by a dying victim. Battle Axe. He had been in the city three days before. For some reason, he was also sent from the city and no report is a good one. Many people say that there were whispers that he had been raping women and had been caught raping the mayor’s wife and daughters.

“The mayor died in the first attacks, so we cannot be for certain. His wife and daughters were dead before the attacks, their lives taken by their own hands. Only something massively traumatic could cause them to do something unthinkable like that.” She turns away. “Those you saw impaled? They refused to leave the city, thinking that the vampires would spare their lives. Instead, they died horribly. Over one million people. Slaughtered. And for what?”

I look at her, tears welling up in my eyes. “And Mobile was much the same?”

She nods. “Yes. Both times, I arrived in time to help the main population flee. Both times, roughly half the population remained in the city. But the mayor of Mobile survived long enough to give us hints as to who and what was at the root of both attacks. But he was unclear in his exact words.”

“And so you sent Hammer to find him.” I state it.

“Yes.” Again, she nods. “And to bring him back.”

I look over at her. “And you want me…Why?”

She smiles.