Even the Stories Will Change

Caleb Goodman

There was a knock on the door. That was unusual in itself as it was almost midnight, but my house was a ways into the woods, making the visitor all the more odd. I grabbed a knife and opened the door. A woman stood outside. She was pale and had a look that implied she was powerful, despite the terrified glances behind her. “Please, I need your help. someone killed my…” She trailed off when she saw my knife. “You… You’re one of them, aren’t you?”

“One of whom?” I asked, glancing at my knife. It was a rather plain knife meant for war, but that wasn’t unusual in the countryside. Everyone knew some basic weaponcraft so to help the king when others invaded. The only thing unusual about it was the silver inlaid in the blade, but their was no way she could know what that meant.

“You’re one of the Vrykolakas. Don’t lie. I’m tired of running. Just end it.”

The word Vrykolakas surprised me. It made sense, but the Vrykolakas would have killed her on sight.

“I am not one of the Vrykolakas, though if I had to guess, you are a strigoi. Only they would know of the Vrykolakas.”

“I’m impressed you know the name, but if you aren’t of the Vrykolakas, then why do you have one of their blades?” She said, skeptical.

“Because they stole the blades from my people. The First Blood.”

“They don’t exist. But are you one of us? A rogue? Only we know of those myths.”

“I know the tales because I lived them. I was there at the fall of our mother city. I was the last one out of Underhaven, and the first one to meet the oncoming army at the Lost River. This is the last blade forged in the war between our people,” I said, gesturing at my knife. “It ended Rathalon’s life and the war. There are a few of us left, but none dare approach your kind for fear that Rathalon was not the last to hate us.”

“My people hate Rathalon for what he did, those that believe, but I know that they are a myth. So I ask again, who are you?”

“Your only friend right now. Someone is coming, and from the noise, I would guess a group of someones. So, decide: me or the ones out there. I promise you you will be safe here. I can’t say the same for the Vrykolakas.”

“Let me in. If you are true to your word, then thank you.”

“You will be safe. Now hurry,” I said, hearing the Vrykolakas getting closer.

No sooner was she inside than the Vrykolakas emerged from the trees with bows drawn.

“Go back,” I called to them. “Not one of you will pass here.”

“You would help that beast?” One of them replied.

“I would. Though I would be a beast in your eyes as well, so what can I say.”

“Two beasts in a night. The king would like that.” And with that all five of them losed. The arrows bounced off my chest.

“Armor piercing,” I said, picking up one of the arrows. “You really do anticipate all outcomes. But of course you don’t know of my people. So, I tell you again, leave. I have seen enough bloodshed in my life. I don’t want any more.”

“How did you not fall? No matter, kill him!” They all drew swords and charged. I shifted into my other form, a scorpion. The Vrykolakas halted.

“I thought shapeshifters were a myth,” one whispered.

“No matter. All animals have a weakness, even the armored ones,” another replied, and they started to advance slower. I charged, faster than they could see. The last of the five fell seconds later.

“Five humans dead because we cannot understand each other,” I muttered to myself.

“My companions tried to make peace with the Vrykolakas, and were rewarded with death,” the woman said as she approached. “Though if the myths are true, we had peace when your people thrived. Could we not achieve that again?”

“No. We lived in peace because they didn’t know of us. We will always be at war now.”

“But why?”

“Because we are different. Because we are faster, stronger. Because they fear difference. It matters not. We will die, and no one will remember us save in the stories they tell to their children.”

“So that is what we will become? Stories? Myths to scare children? That is our fate?”

“Yes. In time the stories will change. Even in the stories we will be forgotten. That will be our fate. In eighty five years, the stories of my people have changed from ones of kind remembrance to being ones of fantastical beings that could never exist. In one hundred years, your kin could become the monsters of Hell, who knows?”

“Then if we will be consigned to stories and made monsters, why should we not give them something to fear?”

“Because then we are no better than them. We will survive and fade quietly, and in the end, we leave nothing but stories. Now let us leave here. There will be more, and I wish for the end of this bloodshed.”

We walked in silence for a few miles. Finally we came to a crossroads.

“I must be off to the west. How about you?”

“I will be continuing on to the north. I have some friends near the frontier.”

“Good luck, then, and goodbye, vampire.”

“And the same to you, king of the first blood. May we meet again.”

We have never seen each other since. And by the time this story reaches you, I will probably be dead and my people forgotten. The First Blood, shapeshifters who willingly gave blood to the strigoi, or vampires as they are called now, without being turned. The silent sentinels keeping peace between humans and vampires for thousands of years. Know our name, and remember us for who we were, not the stories we will become.