Arcainian Island – Present Day
The crisp morning air coursed through Teagan’s lungs much like a refreshing Alpine winter as he pushed himself faster and harder along the trail through the dense jungle of Arcainian Island. Dew trickled down his face like sweat and soaked his favorite band tee. He liked the feel of the moisture against his skin, because one of the first things he learned after his transformation into an immortal over a century ago, Arcainian vampires don’t sweat like regular humans. They’re not dead like in most vampire tales, but living humans with bodies constantly regenerating causing them to heal quickly and live forever. Sweating is something the body does to cool its self and purge impurities. But with Arcainian vampires, it usually only happens when they’re under intense mental pressure. This “condition” isn’t the result of a science experiment or magical spell, but from their father and maker eating a piece of fruit taken from the Tree of Life out of the Garden of Eden.
A low, dense fog slithered across the earthen floor as Teagan jumped over a dilapidated log and scaled the high rock face with little to no effort. His feet knew where to step and jump long before his mind comprehended or planned his next step. He’d run this trail a thousand times already since he came to the island three months ago with the remaining members of his dysfunctional immortal family. Rounding the bend, he approached a wide creek. As his trainers landed on the large rock by the bank, he pushed off and cool wind whipped across his face as he soared through the air. He flung his arms out in front of him like a superhero. Just as he approached the opposite bank he tucked and rolled into a frontward flip, landing softly on the smooth rocks with such light force he barely made a sound.
“I’d like to see Carpus, that overstuffed windbag, do better than that,” Teagan huffed as he pushed through the narrow trail.
Without pausing, he ran around the south bend of the island. A mountainous castle came into view as he jogged along the cliff edge. The monstrous mansion stood magnanimous with its tall spirals and stained-glassed windows. The rising sun caused bright colorful sparkles to dance across the windowpanes. No matter how many times Teagan ran this trail and saw this exact view, it took his breath away.
Teagan slowed as memories of the past three months flooded his mind. He shivered. Without thinking and by automatic reflex, his hand flew to his chest. His heart pounded against his breast bone with loud, rhythmic thumps.
He’d always heard vampires didn’t have heartbeats because they were the walking dead, but he soon learned that everything he thought he knew about the supernatural was wrong. If fact, his brother Carpus started most of the occulted myths and legends in order to weed out the psychopaths in his hunt to find other true immortals.
Now walking at a brisk pace instead of a jog, Teagan closed his eyes and concentrated on controlling his breathing. For a long time, Teagan didn’t know what he was. He knew he wasn’t like anything he’d ever seen or heard before, and until the night he met Tatiana in an airplane hangar in Atlanta he thought he was unique in the world. Now, within the walls of that glorious mountainous castle, four other immortals waited his return, training him and conditioning his mind and body to live fully as an immortal, taking advantage of all its gifts and fulfilling the demands of its curse. Teagan wrinkled his nose as he thought of the monthly blood requirement his perfect, healthy, supernatural body demanded; one of the few downsides to being a vampire.
The dense fog recoiled as the sun moved higher into the morning sky, splashing the surface of the Atlantic Ocean with brilliant sparkles. Teagan let the warm beams wash over his body with their glorious golden rays. That was another myth gone wrong about vampires. Arcainians, while their skin is much like a baby and burns easily against the harsh ultraviolet rays of the sun, they can withstand direct contact. They don’t tan, because tanning is the result of sun-damaged skin, but like humans they do absorb the rich vitamin D from moderate exposure. Their skin is unblemished and smooth.
As he stood with his arms wide open and his eyes closed, worshipping the smell of nature all around him, Teagan’s thoughts drifted to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he saw his father Cain kill his sister Chloe. He knew his maker didn’t take her life in anger or hate, but in compassion, yet his mind refused to reconcile between what had to be and what needed to be done.
There had to be another way.
He winced at the memory of his sister’s burning body being lifted into the air of that hotel room and then becoming incased in a big ball of blue light, exploding into a billion tiny pieces. Cain incinerated her right before his eyes and in front of her mate, Bartemaeus. Barty escaped, of course. Now the remaining five immortals are desperate to find him before he tries to kill Cain and use his gifts of immortality to dominate the rest of the world.
Teagan opened his eyes.
“How did I get myself in the middle of this war?” He looked down at his large, pale hands. “If I do find Barty, I don’t know if I could kill him.” He looked out over the waves as they crashed into the cliffs, their spray splashing high into the air, filling it with the scent and taste of salt.
He’s my brother. How can a man take his own brother’s life?
“Very easily, I’m afraid.”
Teagan jerked his head around and saw Cain sitting casually on a rock behind him. A few strands of black curls hung down into his angelic face, falling just above his bright silver eyes. He sat with his back straight, exposing his wide, massive, muscular chest.
“I didn’t hear your approach. Either you’re really good at stealth or my hearing needs to improve.” Teagan approached Cain and leaned against the rock.
Cain smiled, revealing a set of opalescent teeth.
“Your hearing’s fine. I’ve had nearly ten thousand years to perfect my stealth. Had you heard me, I’d be ashamed at my lack of skill.”
“How can you hear my thoughts when the others can’t?” Teagan asked.
Cain shrugged. “I’ve had more practice.”
Running his gaze over his father, Teagan still found it hard to believe that the man standing before him is the same man he’d heard about all his life in the little country church. Cain was the son of Adam and Eve, the first heir of humanity who walked and breathed upon the face of the earth. Teagan’s only dealt with his immortality for a century, but Cain has watched humanity evolve since its birth. He is the father of all immortals, though he is father of no ordinary human, his lineage disappearing from the face of the earth after the Great Flood. Six immortals now walk the earth amongst six billion humans.
Teagan stared at Cain, whose brows furrowed above his silver eyes – the mark placed on him by God when he murdered his brother Abel.
Squinting from the sun, Cain asked “Why do you torture yourself over this decision? When the time comes to act, I’m sure by then you’ll have settled this in your heart.”
Teagan had asked Cain why he had been chosen and changed, and Cain told him it was to take his life so that he could finally rest. “Killing doesn’t come easy to me. I still have nightmares about accidentally killing my first girlfriend. How could I ever come to grips with killing somebody by choice?” Teagan rubbed the back of his neck.
Cain looked back toward the castle. “Because you’ll look into the faces of the ones whose lives you’ve saved and know it was the right thing to do.”
Teagan looked down at his feet and nudged a loose stone and mumbled. “Do you think about your brother, Abel?”
Looking back at Teagan, Cain stared for a long while and then answered in low, mellow tone. “Every day.”
“Then why would you want me to carry that same burden on my own shoulders?” Teagan picked up the loose stone and threw it out over the water.
“It’s not the same, Teagan.” Cain balled his fist. “In my pain, I lashed out at the person l loved most in this world and it’s because of that I carry this curse.” He took a deep breath and exhaled. “What I’m asking you to do is not murder, but mercy.”
Teagan huffed. “Well, my mind doesn’t see it that way.”
“I know,” Cain responded. “That’s why we wait.”
Both men sat in silence for a long while, watching the sun rise higher in the sky. Teagan’s face began to turn a light pink by the time they both stirred.
Cain slipped off the rock and stretched. He then slapped Teagan across the back. “How about we race back to the castle—the loser cooks breakfast?”
Teagan smiled. He loved the challenge, though he knew he didn’t stand a chance against Cain. Without answering, Teagan sprinted down the coastline along the trail. He ran a quarter of a mile before he heard Cain’s approach.
Teagan pushed his body as fast as it could go, the foliage whipped by him in streaks of green. His muscles burned, his chest ached and his head felt like it was going to explode from the pressure of his heart beating as fast as it did. As the iron door to the castle garage came into view, Teagan felt a sharp pain in his arm as a blue blur flew past him. He stumbled forward then screeched to a halt. He looked down and saw a large gash on his forearm. When he looked up, Cain stood leaning against the garage door, whittling a piece of bamboo.
“Thought I’d mark the occasion,” Cain said as he nodded toward Teagan’s open wound with the tip of the sharpened bamboo.
Furrowing his brows, Teagan looked back at Cain. “What didja do that for? It won’t leave a mark.”
Cain raised his arm and wiped the edge of his mouth with his sleeve. “I didn’t make it with the bamboo. The mark of this wound will stay for a long time.” He winked at Teagan. “Maybe by the time it fades, you’ll be faster than me.”
Teagan arched his brows. “It won’t take that long, old man.” He looked at the gash on his arm. As the acknowledgement of pain tried to bombard the front of his brain, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the nerve ending, numbing the pain with his mind as Cain had taught him.
He found it hard to concentrate since this wound was made with vampire teeth, which were venomous and took much longer to heal. He looked back up at Cain. “When I win, I plan to leave my own mark.”
“Good luck with that.” He turned to the path that led to the large stone steps of the castle entrance. “Oh, and I expect breakfast to be ready by the end of my shower.”