The Last

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Moments earlier, the room was dark, but not now. A red light wanders from the windows to the south, painting everything it touches in blood. Through the windows to the north, we can see another light, golden, transforming curtains and furniture into gold, just like Midas's touch.

Challenging all chromatic laws, a black line appears where the two lights meet, in the middle of the room. Beneath it, sitting in a leather armchair, rests baron Ekkehard, his eyes fixed on the fireplace, which hasn't seen burning fire for over five centuries.

He remembers the day he discovered the truth about Heaven and Hell, when, in this very room, using a crystal ball, an old mage showed him the two possible destinies every man had to face after his demise.

Hell didn't please him. Excessive light and heat always bothered him. Not to mention the complete and total anarchy and the torments the Horned One inflicts to everyone who ends down there.

However, Heaven wasn't any better. An excessively quiet realm, where everything had a rule in an attempt to suppress individuality and create an artificial and impossible equality.

Ekkehard decided, then, that he would do everything he could to keep himself on Earth. The mage told him to search for a man he heard rumors of and that might be able to help. However, he warned him about Armageddon; the day where all beings, with no exception, would be taken to one of the afterlife realms. The baron, however, didn't pay attention to this last advice. After all, that doom was still far away.

Ekkehard takes to his mouth a cup of Bordeaux, the only wine his taste buds, withered over the centuries, could feel.

The baron then recalls his trip to Transylvania, including all the adventures and misadventures. There, he found the man that the mage told him about. That is, if the creature could be called as a man. It was a deformed and hunchbacked thing, bald and with purple skin. Only a few perceptible words fell out of his mouth, full of crooked and missing teeth, among which two long canines could visibly be seen.

Ekkehard understood why he looked like that when he saw the shelter of this once a man: a cavern in the middle of the forest, lost between the Carpathians, without furniture or tools or any other signs of civilization, but full of bones and animal carcasses whose blood had been drained.

With a lot of effort, the baron was able to make the creature bite him without drinking blood. Only enough to pass the disease, to make him one of the eternal living-dead, capable of enduring until the last days of this Earth.

Ekkehard rises from his armchair and adjusts the plates of his secular armor, which he kept in perfect condition precisely for this moment. Calmly, he walks to the fireplace and takes the sword resting carefully upon it.

Images of the centuries following his transformation start coming to his mind. Practically immortal and still looking Armageddon from afar, he dedicated himself to what he loved the most: war. Leaving his castle to the care of his mortal servants, he participated in every single war he was able to: the Turkish wars, the Anglo-Spanish War, the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, and many others. And during them, he also quenched the thirst every member of his undead race bears - human blood was much more nutritious than animal blood.

However, as vampirism started to destroy his taste and tact, and also pleasure, all the emotion he felt from fighting quickly faded away. After the Great War, he put down his arms and started searching for something to fill the void he felt inside him. It didn't take long for literature to fill it.

Knowing that there were less than a hundred years to the End, he searched for a genre which totally satisfied him, and he devoted himself to it, ignoring all others. He chose speculative fiction. Science Fiction, Horror, Alternative History; especially interesting to someone who lived through History as it occurred, fascinated him. But it was Epic and Heroic Fantasy which drew him in completely. Stories by Howard and Tolkien, and their successors: Brooks, Eddings, Gemmel, Feist, Cook, Abnet, and Martin, just to name a few. Impossible journeys, epic wars, valiant heroes, but not always perfect, cruel villains, but not always evil, incredible duels. All of them similar, but not the same, they stoked all the emotions that he felt in his fighting days, even when heroes defeated creatures similar in every single trait to the one he became.

Ekkehard leaves the room. As he walks through the corridor, he takes a last glance to the multiple rooms, all of them full of shelves packed with books. He laments that he will not be here to read future adventures. Then, he remembers that there is no one left to write them, that all other human beings are dead, sent to the realms of the afterlife by the two clashing armies in an attempt to acquire numeric superiority in the final battle of the Eternal War. How many artifacts will be left unfound? How many villains left undefeated? How many heroes unborn? How many battles unfought?

The baron walks down the exterior staircase of the keep, through the cobbled courtyard, past the gates, through the stone bridge built over the moat and finally to the fields where, many centuries ago, his serfs worked.

He looks around. Yesterday, the castle was still surrounded by mountains, but not now. As far as his sight can reach, there are only plains. Both armies destroyed everything through which they passed. And now they are almost on him.

To the south, there are demons, some huge, over ten feet tall, other minuscule, not even reaching one foot. Some slim, some fat. Some flying, using bat-like wings, some dragging their feet on the ground and others, still, walking mid-air like they were on solid ground. However, every single one of them has two horns striking out of their forehead and red skin that radiates a light of the same color.

To the north, there are angels. They have a much more consistent appearance than the demons, as all of them look like humans. Only their wings, covered in white feathers, distinguishes one from the other, as their size varies, probably according to status. A golden aura surrounds them all, issued by the halos hovering above their heads.

Although all vampires are thought of as almost immortal, being only able to die if someone stakes their heart or hews their head, Ekkehard knows he doesn't stand a chance against the vast and powerful enemies who draw near. However, he still doesn't give up. He won't be just another collateral damage to the Eternal War. He won't fall to neither angel nor demon, not without a fight.

Holding his sword with both hands, Ekkehard adopts a fighting stance. His eyes jump between north and south, waiting for the soldiers of both sides to come within sword reach. Preparing to make his incarceration in the afterlife kingdoms as difficult as possible.


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