Victory had been hard won and, as such, Count Dumitru felt that great pageantry should celebrate it. He greeted his fetid army in the morning, as the frigid land was forever trapped in darkness and winter. He emerged from his war tent, resplendent in blood-red armor which glistened as lightning lashed across the sky.

At his side was Alin, always stooped, always stammering. He hobbled to his master, his rotten flesh encased in ramshackle armor. “G-Greetings, Dark One.”

“The air reeks of blood, but also desperation,” the Count hissed in a sibilant tone. “Take me to him.”

…in a world of gods and monsters, I shall become both.”

Alin bowed, gesturing to a muscled form bound in chains. His beard was spattered in blood and one of his eyes was engulfed in swollen flesh.

“A son of Asgard, the best of Valhalla,” Dumitru said to the watching undead, holding his arms out wide as he sneered. “Yet, here you kneel before me.” The sound of gnashing teeth and ripping flesh distracted him, and he turned to find lifeless, scaled giants being torn apart by his ravenous soldiers. “Even your trollish allies could not save you.”

To the Count’s surprise, the warrior chuckled, holding his chin up defiantly.

“Lord Odin’s army has fallen, but not because of you, creature,” he declared. “Other things have awakened, things from darker pits than the one you slithered from.”

The noise irked the Count, who grabbed the warrior in his boney claws. His red eyes flared and his jaw unhinged, revealing countless gleaming fangs. They sank into the warrior’s neck, and as Dumitru fed upon the blood he began to see visions. A mountain to the West, an ancient temple, a beast older than time itself.

The Count threw the now lifeless husk to the side, staring off into the white wasteland beyond his encampment.

“My lord, what is it?” Alin asked, stepping over the corpse.

“We march West,” he said. “The legends of the globe are fighting for dominance, and in a world of gods and monsters, I shall become both.”

***

So they traveled on, an army of corpses led by an immortal lord of the night. They moved ceaselessly, the bite of the cold unable to chill their bones. There came a booming crash from the sky, a roar that was not of thunder or lighting. Dumitru looked up and watched as a winged drake fell from the clouds with an earthshaking impact.

The Count approached the thing, watching the rise and fall of its chest. Its flesh was bruised and bleeding, signs of a struggle lost. He looked down at its head, its clouded eyes looking about wildly as blood oozed from its beak. Dumitru knelt next to it, coating his fingers in the pitiful beast’s ichor.

He brought the draconic blood to his lips and tasted it. In a flash its memories came, and again he saw the nightmarish thing, its eyes deep and ancient. He stared to the West, the clouds parting to reveal a dark mountain, and felt a tingling sense of anticipation.

“We’re close.”

***

The mountain path was treacherous, making progress slow, but the Count’s army was unrelenting. After much searching, they found it, a temple of ageless construction. The darkness here was deeper than anything he had felt in his centuries of unlife, and it seemed to cling to him like cobwebs. Obscene murals of wanton excess and horror raced across the walls, and statues of grotesque shapes glared out from the darkness with eyes of sapphire and emerald. The Count was certain that this was the right place, given the hundreds of Asgardian skeletons present.

Soon the vampiric lord came across an opening in the labyrinthine antechamber. There the darkness had congealed, almost a physical presence. Even his cursed eyes, accustomed to moonless nights of predation, couldn’t pierce it.

He sensed his quarry lay ahead and pulled his hooked sword from its sheathe, thrusting it towards the darkness. “Charge, my slaves! Bring the wretch out to face its slayer!”

As one they shouted a dusty battle cry. They shambled forth, shields and weapons at the ready. They plunged into the veil’s depths, and at once that cry was silenced.

For the first time in his life he felt lost in shadow…

Without warning, thick, fleshy appendages came lashing forth from the abyss. Durmitru leapt back, and to his disgust he saw that his army had been absorbed into the black tendrils. They moaned and shrieked in unutterable suffering, and the Count recognized Alin approach him, fused to a tentacle’s tip.

“Black-hearted boy-prince! I see true darkness now, true-“ Durmitru wouldn’t hear more, and stabbed his blade deep into his former servant’s skull.

A great head emerged, fat and boneless, roaring with a lamprey-like mouth wreathed in barbed tendrils. Its single eye was closed, its massive form pulled along by thousands of writhing tentacles. It was larger than he could’ve imagined, and the tendrils holding his army hostage circled around him. Chiropteran wings, at first appearing useless and pitiful on its back, soon opened and stretched to cover the entire chamber.

The Count’s gaze darted back and forth, the darkness crawling forth to surround him. For the first time in his life he felt lost in shadow, until stars and comets began to glow in the folds of the creature’s great wings. The tentacles closed in as the beast leaned towards him, opening its eye to look down at him.

The Count screamed, the first moment the world would hear the terror of a vampire.  As he gazed into the eye of the primordial god, seeing alien constellations man had never known, his mind was ripped elsewhere, cast adrift into the center of things, where chaos and madness gibber in a court filled with the piping of the damned. His spirit was consumed by it like a leaf in a blazing inferno. He didn’t even feel the unnamable horror consume him, using the slavering jaws of his own soldiers to do so, feeding a hunger far more ancient than his own.

 

For more great mythical stories, check out the latest issue of Havok.

Meet the Author

Matthew Pedersen was born in the Midwest and moved to Texas early on in his life. Having spent years reading, studying, and writing weird and dark fiction, he is currently working as a freelance writer in the short fiction market. His first story to be published, the “Mortiis Station Contract,” was released in the fourth issue of Fever Dreams Ezine. You can find Matthew on goodreads.