Born of the Blood by Paul-Antonio Azar
Blood Brothers Book 1
What if the story of the infamous Vlad the Impaler depicted his humanity and family instead of his brutality and rise to power? Blood Brothers is a humanizing tale about two brothers who love each other but find themselves at opposite ends of ambition. Reluctance, magical realism, religion, duty, werewolves, love, the nature of good and evil, revenge, and a sprinkle of romance and humor with a small cast of diverse characters fill the pages of this simple yet expressive novel that is sure to delight fans of non-erotic, mature supernatural/historical fiction.
As the first vampires in history, confusion was like another brother for Radu and Vladimir Tepes. As children and nobles, the mutation they did not understand brought them close only for the fate of mortal, lordly men to pit them against each other. Their first attempts at life were spent fighting for a throne neither could keep for very long. Failure, and decapitation, marked their mortal end. But in death, their shared supernatural difference reunited them.
Now, nearly a century later, the men who had missed out on the pleasures of brotherhood travel the countryside of Romania together as monster hunters – a simple lifestyle. All they want from this new life is peace. However, Vladimir’s lust for power reignites when he discovers he can mutate others into vampires, creating a rift between the brothers. Despite his efforts, he could not find the peace he sought for the sake of the brother he loves. Conquest was what his soul yearns for, and he would create an army despite Radu’s protests. Fate is what the dreamer proclaims. A delusion is what the realist other brother replies. Both intent on their paths, they fight for what they believe is right for the both of them. And, just like in their first lives, they were at war again, reluctantly pursuing their conflicting paths with unfortunate rivalry.Amazon
Excerpt from Blood Brothers: Born of the Blood © Copyright 2023 Paul-Antonio Azar
– CHAPTER 1 – FIRST BLOOD –
“Blood alone moves the wheels of fate.”
The night reached dusk and the moon was eclipsed by the wild winter winds of Romania. This year’s winter was exceptionally fierce. God had ravaged the land in a white abyss of snow that would impair any brave – or foolish – man’s sense of direction once they dared set foot outside, not able to tell right from left. The cautious remained indoors, shielding themselves from the oppressive chill, while the careless tested their short-lived tenacity.
Before the great cold had taken Sighișoara, the king’s census had numbered more than ten thousand people living in and around the city. Thriving, noisy, and bustling with all manner of life, the city was crowded with merchants, soldiers, wanderers, workers, scholars, and criminals of all descriptions. On a good day, the air smelled of cooked meat, flowers, incense, and perfumes offered by the merchants in the lively marketplace. On a bad day, the condensed smell of unwashed bodies, horse shit, and smoke filled the air instead. A sea of men, women, and children going about their business once littered the streets and markets, shouting and chattering along the winding streets. Now, it was a frozen and empty place – a memory of its former self.
Within the confines of the thick and decorated stone walls of this particular house, sounds of pain were muffled by the wild winter winds. Notably, the agony of two young boys. Their spasms and moans suggested they had fallen terribly ill. They rested uncomfortably agitated in their beds stuffed with wool and under their sheepskin covers, grunting and panting from an unknown pain the woman caring for them did not seem to understand or be able to treat effectively. Just six and ten years old, they looked small and frail. The faint moonlight shimmered through the rough square-shaped window, its stubborn light slipping past whatever crack it could find through the hailing grains of snow.
While the snow continued to ravage the outside so loudly its winds whistled through the walls of the bedroom, this woman – their caretaker, their mother – did her best to ease the pain of her children. She looked at her sons huddled in their beds on both ends of the room, their covers drawn up to their chattering chins. They were sobbing hard enough it nearly robbed them of breath. Their mother, with her sagging eyes and drooping eyelids, murmured consolations and prayers to keep her sane during her children’s pain. Her clothes were bland and dirty, her hands as wrinkly and dry as a prune thanks to her incessant caretaking, her hair donned a light cloth of the church, betraying her religious nature, and her aching body and weary mind argued with her for a good night’s sleep. She had been at this for days with little rest. A dozen candles lit the room for their light and the smallest bit of warmth the tiny balls of fire could muster against the cold. It was a miracle the gusts of wind which periodically slipped through the barricaded window did not extinguish the flames.
Doctors had told her it was common for children their age to die from illness. That their frail bodies were not adept at survival in such an especially harsh winter. The mother was emotional, but no fool. She heard the uncertainty in their voices, and concluded that, just like her, they did not know what had taken her sons to the gates of the afterlife. Regardless, she would not allow them to go through its doors. Unlike the candles around the room, the mother’s steel-hearted hope did not flicker. She continued to do only what she was able: help lessen their lingering pain and pray for their health.
As if it had a personality of its own, the fever was stubborn in its stay. Tonight marked the eleventh night and their bodies showed no sign of healing, only of degradation. Her worries grew. She was frightened by what fate awaited her sick boys. Regardless, she remained by their side with an optimistic hope fueling her. She approached her youngest son’s bedside to the left of the room. He seemed in more pain than his older brother, moaning and shifting in his bed endlessly. His whimpering breaths came in short, sharp gulps, he burned in his own skin despite the cold, his ears throbbed as if they might burst from the pressure he felt inside, and every beat of his vigorous heart echoed in his throbbing skull. Dutifully, his mother reached out to the side of his bed and dragged a wooden bucket of warm water closer to her. She cupped her palms and removed the drowned cloth from it, wringing it out. She placed the warm cloth over his forehead in an unsure effort to soothe him. Whether or not it actually helped, she did not know, but she found solace in believing that perhaps they were not dead yet thanks to her efforts.
Unfortunately, the boy’s continued spasms pushed the cloth aside. The mother exhaled a defeated sigh at the sight. She wrapped her arms around him in an attempt to calm him, gently holding him down. It was a mother’s desperate embrace. “Everything will be alright. Mamă is here. Hush now, little one…” she softly whispered in his ear as she caressed his sweaty, burning cheek. “Do not worry. Everything will be fine… Everything will be fine…” she promised with a shaky tone, repeating it almost so she would believe it herself.
She released her son and climbed back to her feet. She remained strong for the sake of the boys who needed her, but even the strong can crumble under the weight of such emotional labor. She could feel her tears pushing against the back of her eyes, desperate to find freedom. She chose to refuse her sadness instead. If she cried, then it meant she accepted that it was the end for them.
From the other corner of the room, the gasping cries of her eldest son now called to her. Sluggishly, the devoted mother grabbed the bucket and scurried off, sending her attention and care to him. However, when she turned her back, what were violent grunts and moans suddenly escalated into screams of pain. Startled, she dropped her bucket, sending it crashing to the floor, and ran back to her youngest, diving at his bedside. The sharp rise in pain caused his body to twist and contract wildly.
She threw her arms around him and held down his flailing body. “C-Calm yourself! Please!” crowed the distraught mother with tears close to being shed, panic clear on her face.
Just when she was certain the pressure encumbering her boy had relented in its assault, it returned with reinforcements. She did not understand the sudden escalation, and she could not bear the potential climax of it. She refused to believe God would take another child so soon and so cruelly. He was just a boy. What could he have possibly done to deserve such an unfair end, she thought as she tightened her grasp with all her feeble might. The boy bellowed his pain in uneven and harsh breaths while his mother tried her best to keep him still.
“Oh please, God! No!” she exclaimed in a harsh whisper, tightening her hold evermore. She shut her eyes to shield herself from the soon-to-be reality she despaired.
Any moment now, she thought while sobbing whispered prayers. Any moment now and she would soon find herself holding the limp and lifeless body of the boy who was once her son. Her eldest child paid no attention to his little brother’s anguish, as he was busy with his own.
And then, just as quickly as it began, there was silence. No more screams. No more convulsions. Just as she expected, his body went limp. A caring mother who did all she could was left with undeserving despair. She dared not look. With her eyes still shut, she released tears reserved for death.
However, her son had not abandoned his chance at life. His faint heartbeat kept him alive just enough to trigger a desperate attempt at survival. His complexion lost even more of its vigor, becoming so pale his veins showed through his ghost-like skin, and his teeth sharpened to an animal-like bite. His body had mutated, and, just like an animal, he came back to life growling and fighting. Before the mother could express surprise and rejoice, she found herself locking her body to his tiny frame once again, holding down his wild spasms.
His screams changed tune. From screams of pain to simply wild screams, the mother did not understand what happened. She did not have the time to make sense of it. All she could do was hold him down and pray to her God, but the boy’s spastic behavior made it a struggle to finish a verse. Helpless, the mother prayed even louder, as if God had not heard her the first thousand times. Verse after verse after verse, she spit out every prayer she knew hoping a miracle would occur for the sake of the boy who had done no wrong.
But instead of a miracle, she was blessed with misfortune. Perhaps her words were not loud enough for God’s ears to hear, she thought, or perhaps she had not done enough to warrant His attention… Wavering thoughts that did not matter anymore. Her prayers were abruptly interrupted mid-verse when her words caught in her throat as she felt her body go numb. There was silence. And then there was blood. For a second, the mother believed He had done her justice – that He had granted her the miracle she prayed for when she felt the sudden caress of her boy around her neck. She believed it with a smile that did not last. When she opened her eyes, reality struck her down. It was not her son’s embrace she felt, but his jaw tightly clamped around her neck. Her ill child had sunk his fangs deep inside her, his teeth gripping her neck so fiercely the skin around his fangs bent inwards. Her blood leaked down her body and stained her cloth robe red. The boy attacked his own mother, yet his absent eyes suggested he was not aware of his own actions.
He exhaled violently and rapidly, his breath gliding along her back. The mother’s mind staggered, her expression uncomprehending, and the fear she refused settled in with a crash as dread and bewilderment joined in. Her eyes darted from side to side trying to catch a glimpse of the spectacle she did not understand. Her aching muscles protested when she tried to move, and she felt a sensation of cold water spread through her body as the memory of warmth fled from her. The mother realized she was still breathing and that if she concentrated, could feel the rapid beating of her frightened heart. Her mouth trembled open, but when she screamed her voice was raw and rough. Nobody could hear her faint plea for help. She was alone with the howling winds and a ravenous son.
Instinct had taken the boy. He was wholly consumed by it like an animal desperate for survival. Bit by bit the mother felt her life slowly slipping, the darkness she saw threatening to black her out. She tried to scream again, her jaw trembling open, and then… nothing. Not a sound escaped her this time. She could not muster the focus to shout or the energy to fight back. Her vision began to blur, and her head felt as light as a feather. Then her eyelids, heavy as stone, fluttered shut. She was doomed, yet in her moment of despair she did the one thing she knew to do in such times: she prayed. Her mumbling words were the last thing the world would remember her by as her breath came in one last, rattling wheeze…
The deed was finally done. The boy’s skin had regained its color and his body its volume while the opposite happened to his corpse of a mother. For a moment, the bodies of both remained as still as statues. And then, as if they had been conjoined for decades, the boy’s jaw creaked open, releasing his mother from his bite. Her skeletal body slid off the side of the bed and fell to the stone floor. Her body made neither sound nor stain on impact.
A long sigh escaped through the boy’s clenched teeth, his heavy breath clouding in the winter air. His gaze was distant, and he stared absently at nothing. Still, behind the nothingness, there was a peace that softened his features and allowed him to return to sleep. He did not scream or convulse with pain. The boy felt the awful weight lift from his chest and gasped in a lungful of sweet, cold air. The blinding headache faded next, receding from his forehead, eyes, temples, and finally from the center of pain in his now unencumbered skull. He had been spared. There was only silence and peace now that he finally found tranquility. Yet his older brother continued to cry in pain from his corner of the room, awaiting his turn for serenity.
The devoted mother fulfilled her duty and goal. Her prayers had been answered. She saved her son, though not in the way she surely expected.
And thus, a new creature was born into the world…
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