Sing to me, Falconer, of what was and what shall be. Blow the victory ram's horn and recall the destiny to which you were so cruelly taken.
How you came to us in the night of your soul's despair, on the rocky ledges and fallen citadels of the Eastern Kingdoms. Roar the story of the warrior-youth from the West, who came to plunder the treasures of Antioch and Kur-Nu and was himself plundered...
Here is the story that has been kept secret for more than eight hundred years, suppressed by the Keepers of the Veil, hunted by the humans who came after the Falconer, and buried by those he most trusted.
The shroud of history is upon humankind and those born of the Serpent as well, and all has been lost from the past, but you will invoke it now that it might live ---
Speak the prophecies of Medhya, and of the secret wars that would not have begun without the appearance of the Maz-Sherah --
And remember the tale of the Priest of Blood, who brought you to this desolate and wretched and noble state...
THE WORDS OF THE BLOOD
Mortal life is an echo of footsteps heard in the halls of the dead. Despite the adventures glimpsed at Death's Threshold, we turn toward life, as if that echo were all.
Within life, the blood is sustenance, the flesh is our cloak, but it is the breath that is the life --- of eternity --- itself.
Long before my birth, and well before my initiation into the mysteries of vampyrism, there were prophecies written in blood on a parchment made of human skin. These were rolled, as a scroll might be, bound in goatskin, placed in an urn, and then sealed.
Servants of the fallen ones buried the urn beneath the earth to protect its secrets. The servants were slaughtered, with the last taking his own life, so that no one might ever know of the prophecies and the power they possessed.
The earth itself wished to learn of the urn's secrets, and so after many years, the earth crushed the urn. Dirt and crawling insects spilled across the words of blood. From this earth, grain grew, and whispered the words to the air.
One who harvested the grain heard the words as wind swept the grasses. This man came to know the power within the words of the Blood, and became a great priest of his tribe, and when he passed to the Threshold that exists between life and death, he returned to life and raised up a kingdom of his own.
He had many daughters in his former life, and they grew in power themselves, stolen from him and from the shades that gathered to those who held the power of one called Medhya, who had made the prophecies with her own blood, and the parchments were her own flesh.
She had been a great queen of a distant country that the ancients called Myrryd, which now lies somewhat in northern Africa and in the sea, for it is one of the Fallen Kingdoms of the world.
Medhya had power and wisdom in her youth. It was said that the Serpent, which was sacred to her land, told her the secrets of the earth and of immortality, stolen from the lands beyond the Veil. With this illicit knowledge, she brought about prosperity and heaped all manner of blessings on her people. Three distinct priesthoods grew about her as her kingdom grew to encompass many kingdoms --- the Myrrydanai, the Kamr, and the Nahhashim, to gather worshippers to her throne.
But she grew corrupt with her immortality, and became a tyrant to her followers.
When foreign invaders finally destroyed the thousand years of Myrryd, her priests discovered the source of her immortality, and stole it for themselves.
They took her flesh from her, to wear as a cloak, and her blood to drink, leaving only her shadow, which was dark as midnight.
The ones called the Nahhashim preserved her words in her blood, on her sun-dried skin, as her shadow lingered with them, whispering prophecies that maddened them and brought them death when her whispering was done. A tree grew among their graves, and from it a flower with juice that was poison. From the tree, a staff was cut, and the priests called the Kamr, who likewise drank of Medhya's blood, took the seed of the flower and the priests called Myrrydanai tasted of her flesh.
But the prophecies were unknown to them, and the shadow of Medhya was upon them, both a curse and a powerful force.
The first prophecy told of the days to come when the blood would sing within the cupbearer, and all who had drunk of the cup would know her secrets.
The second prophecy spoke of a great bird that would come to devour the snake and so become a dragon and raise up the Fallen Ones of Medhya.
And the third prophecy of that terrible and powerful immortal was that the bloodline of Medhya would drink the blood of the dead and dying until All became the One, and the One, All.
There was one more prophecy, but the one who heard the words on the tips of wind-blown grain did not reveal it. All that anyone would know of it was that it spoke of a great war that would be like no other, between those of the blood, and those of the flesh, and it would return Medhya to her place of power.
There are those who say Medhya walked the earth for many thousand years more, calling for her flesh, weeping for her lost blood and for the children of her children, cursing those who stole the source of her power, searching for a doorway from the world of shadow into the world of flesh. She is nothing but shadow by day, and by night, she is the whispering darkness itself.
Against her will, but from those who stole her blood and her secrets, the race of vampyres was born, from the Curse of Medhya and her Sacred Kiss, which both drinks, resurrects the flesh, and passes the soul from mouth to mouth.
She seeks those who stole her secrets.
She hunts the night to bring hell to her children.
She is the mother of the tribe of vampyres, and the one who wishes to bleed them for eternity.
These prophecies and this legend were unknown to me until after my nineteenth year, when a vampyre named Pythia took me.
When she murdered me, her sharp canine teeth savaged my throat. I can still remember the pain: it was the pain of birth. I saw a vision of shadows in darkness, as of men of some authority gathered around, shadow against shadow. I felt my blood rise up to the bite, as if meeting Pythia's lips and tongue. The smell of her --- at that instant --- was the musky perfume of the grave itself.
Her beauty changed from the maiden to that of the corpse, the drying leather of skin pulled taut against her skull. I saw her as she was. I saw her for her flesh and not for her spirit. Her eyes opened, milky white and diseased. Her jaw, wolf-like, as she tore into me. Her weight, heavy on my chest.
I froze, paralyzed, unable to fight, and then the awful sucking sounds as she drank me.
I remember the beat of my pulse, as if it were a heavy, slow knocking at a wooden door nearby.
I saw her true beauty, as the life poured from my veins into her mouth. Her eyes, like burning sapphires. Her hair, thick, dark as night, flowing from her alabaster face, and then the flush of pink in her cheeks as my blood nourished her.
She became my mother, and my lover, and my savior, and my murderer, and my demon.
It was not intense pleasure I felt then, in the Sacred Kiss that burned on my lips. The pleasure came after, when I experienced my first resurrection. The pleasure of opening myself up to the night, to creation itself, to the flesh in full.
The pleasure arises when the body comes fully alive again.
When the thirst for blood begins.
The curse of the thirst is not the thirst itself, but of the memories it stirs. Each drop of blood brings forth, once more, the memory of my mortal life.
Red is for remembrance.
There is another world, and until I tasted of it, it remained legend.
I am vampyre, but have not always been. Once, like you, I was someone's child, and the world seemed an eternal spring to me.
There is a history you do not know, nor have you seen, except those who have torn the Veil, which is the juice of a rare flower, known to the ancients by other names. The world you believe existed in my mortal lifetime is a forgery, committed by the monasteries whose monks wrote much, and lied more, and by great men who proclaimed their great deeds in order to store up their treasures and create dynasties.
But like a blanket of mist on marshlands, the past has been hidden to remove the power of those who were not men. And even the past is its own fog, for beyond it lies the Otherworld itself, the Veil's secret world that exists with the one of mortals, and yet we do not see it. You cannot conquer a world if your chronicles tell of your failures and defeats and of the blood on your own hand. You can only conquer when those who come after see you as the holy victor, as the anointed of God, a victim of devilish evil, of plagues, and of monstrous invaders. But the truth resides with me, and others like me.
And so, I will tell you what happened in those dark times.
I write this from my tomb, in the present century, having lived (in the way that I live, which is not living but not dead) for these hundreds of years. I have lost some of my provincial touch, the air of the peasant boy from what is now called Brittany, the uncouth youth who spoke in crude barely decipherable phrases, the child of mud-and-thatch hut that I once thought of as a cottage, as home, without education, without a hope in Hell, as it were. Should I lapse from the tale, or forget a detail of history, you will forgive such ignorance, for too many years have passed from my birth to this date, and I remember it as if through my current sensibility.
I picked up my language from the past hundred years or so. I did not learn the art of writing my name until I was nearly three hundred years old. My education --- at the great universities of mankind and among ancient profane documents hidden in caves from the eyes of man --- did not begin until the last of the nineteenth century.
Laggard schoolboy that I am, it was not until the twentieth century that I comprehended the vastness of this world, of its literature, of the inventions of man and the passing and rebirth of the Gods in this, the Forest of those who hunt in the dark.
My understanding, also, is of this new age. The past is a territory of mirrors and tricks of light. Should I fail in my depiction of the battles in the Holy Land or the chateaux of my home country, then so be it. It has been too many years, and memory piles upon memory. And yet, of the truth of it, I remember all. And the smells, the tastes, the touches of those whose lives were intertwined with mine. I write of the history of the soul. There are history books you may consult, although most of them lie, but if you wish to know the date of battles, or the banner flown by a knight, or the ins and outs of the strategies that toppled the Holy Land and then untoppled it later, I suggest you find a history of my first century of life. There are maps. There are treasures locked up in museums. There are tombs. There are the accounts of the Kings and Dukes of the world, as they affected the politics and legends of their eras. Some of the history is true, some of it false, and most of it, hidden.
There were greater wars than human wars, greater races than the mortal, and greater histories than those of the Kings of men.
So, I will write as well as I can of all that I remember, beginning with the road that led me to the Priest of Blood.
Blood is my sustenance, and my glory, but I am not its Priest. I am but a servant of the Veil and its creation, once a man who was then reborn of the Great Serpent in his nineteenth year.
Since you asked, I will tell of such things as my immortal life has experienced.
I will show you the great Temple of Lemesharra and of the Netherworld called Alkemara, and the towering citadels of the Veil itself and yes, its murky inhabitants, as well as the abominations known to many as the Myrrydanai, those plague-bearers born from the corrupt wombs of the Chymers.
I will tell you of flights across the seas of the earth, and of the rocks that speak, and the blood that sings and of the eternal newborn who sleeps within the sacred waters and whose dreams kill all who approach it.
Furthermore, I will tell of that which I have seen through a Second Sight, of others who played their parts in the tale of my existence, of paths I have not taken, and those that have led me to the darkness and the truth. I will show you the secret of the life of the Blood itself, and of Pythia, and of her jealousy.
And above all this, I will tell you the history of the Fallen Ones of Medhya, and of the tribe that was once vulture and jackal, which became falcon and wolf and dragon.
I will tell because I know.
Excerpted from The Priest of Blood © Copyright 2012 by Douglas Clegg. Reprinted with permission by Ace Hardcover. All rights reserved.
The Priest of Blood: The Vampyricon
- hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Ace Hardcover
- ISBN-10: 0441013279
- ISBN-13: 9780441013272