Gilded Cage, A Companion Story to The Williamson Vampires Series

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His feet pounded and squished as he ran down the moist dirt path, not that he cared.  He wasn’t looking for a meal, not on this night.  He didn’t need to keep silent.  He was too worried to think of feeding or blood.  His feet plodded along.  Branches clung to his clothing and thrashed at his face.  He didn’t care.  He ran, heedless of his surroundings.

He’d gotten away again.  Slipping past his bodyguards made him feel young and alive, not much else did these days.   He knew he didn’t need guards.  He’d lived 1500 years longer than his oldest “child.”  What could the young ones protect him from?  What could they do that he couldn’t do for himself?  Some of them hadn’t even seen real battle.  They worried about the wrong things.  They didn’t know what real fear was.

The clouds overhead fluctuated with the autumn breeze revealing stars on the charcoal sky.  Damp leaves scented the air.  He pushed himself harder, pumping his arms back and forth.  It felt good.  His heart pounded inside his chest.  Most days it beat so slowly, he might as well be dead.  It felt good to push himself to his limits.  He wished he could run like this every night.  He used to.  He used to do a lot of things.

Small herds of deer were on the move.  He could sense where they were.  He could smell them.  He reveled in their wildness.  He’d once lived as wild as they were, always on the move, living off of nature’s bounty.  He’d been a lot younger back in those days.  There hadn’t been any thought involved.  He’d taken whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.  In those days, he’d put no thought into consequences.  He wasn’t mortal.  He’d been transformed into a god.  That’s what his Master had taught him.  They’d wiped out entire villages of people, just to see if it could be done.  Humans blamed the plague for everything back in those days.

He let his mind wander as his feet carried him deeper and deeper into the forest.  He’d never feel that innocence, not ever again.  He’d learned too much, gone too far, and along the way, he’d lost that part of himself.  He’d been forced to see a different way of living.  He ran faster, and faster, but he’d never be able to out run from his own guilt.  He’d been ruined forever because of it.   

It didn’t matter.  None of it mattered anymore.  He had to keep reminding himself that they’d all be dead now anyways.  What did forty years, or sixty, or a hundred years mean?  They would have all died eventually.  He couldn’t allow his past guilt to cripple his future behavior.  Had he’d been taught differently from the beginning; perhaps he wouldn’t have become the man that he was today.  Perhaps he wouldn’t still be alive.  Perhaps he wouldn’t have been strong enough.  Who was he to question the universe?  How could he have known he had been destined for better things?

Thinking back, he knew his Master’s hatred had been his undoing.  He’d ruled his coven with fear and violence. His human father had ruled Rome in a similar fashion.  They’d both been hungry for power, but didn’t understand the humility needed to wield it.  That was the hardest lesson, a lesson he worked at daily to learn.  A god was only as strong as his followers.  Without them, he was nothing.

His lungs burned.  He was beginning to tire, reaching the limits of his strength.  He’d been fasting for days.  He’d purposely weakened his body.  As he approached the clearing, he knew he’d found the right place.  The clouds shifted again and the moon appeared.  He sank to his knees in the damp grass.  There wouldn’t be a full moon for another five days, but he didn’t have time to wait.  He needed answers.  He bent at the waist prostrating himself.  His breath hitched as he allowed his body to give in to exhaustion.

He may have been a god here on earth, but he knew there was a pecking order in all things.  That was why he was here.  He needed to pray.  He needed to think.  His “children,” the ones he had turned, were counting on him.  He was supposed to have all the answers.  He was supposed to know everything.  If they ever knew the truth…

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