12Th Hour

12th Hour

1: Dark and Light

The night was nearing its zenith, and outside, a quiet darkness was covering the sleeping world.

The city of Roma was as quiet as a large city could be at night in the late middle ages.

It was late in the fourteenth century, and the Holy Roman Church was all powerful in Europa, and the Pope was God's Voice on Earth.

For more than a thousand years, the church had been hunted mages and others, behind the scenes to keep their priesthood in power.

But now the mage's Messiah had been born.

The Pope was summoning all his agents, the good and the bad, to hunt down the boy and stop the mages from gaining power.

The large, natural cave had been chosen for the meeting because of the exits that go down into the caverns below ground and of the church catacombs that was next to them.

The ground in the cave was rough with a little gravel, some small boulders, and somewhere water was slowly dripping down.

The cave was in near darkness as the only light comes from the catacombs, where the holy man would enter from.

Both men could enter the cave easily and exit without being followed or being watched by others.

Above ground, the horse-drawn carriages were helping the rich got home from their parties.

A single man was pushing a cart down a street, with some food for the next day's market.

In the tunnel, close to the cave the Ancient Vampire moved with ease and stealth, because he could see in the darkness.

When you got a letter from the Holy Pope himself, somebody you had fought with for many years, you wanted to attend that meeting.

The cave was large and could have room for maybe fifty people. But tonight there ware only two people planned to be in the cave.

The follower of light, and the follower of darkness.

The follower of darkness had been hiding close to the cave for some time, for the simple reason that he was experienced in the way of his opponent. When you was called to a meeting with a holy man and you didn't know if it was a double-cross.. You got there ahead of schedule to watch what was going on.

Being an ancient vampire and able to change into a bat, did also have its advantages.

He heard the human walking down the stairs, and coming down into the catacombs.

The person stopped outside the cave entrance, and he could hear the movement of clothes and the sound of a staff being placed up against the wall inside the catacombs.

After a moment he heard the sound of clothes being dragged over the stones inside the catacomb, and then the man of light entered the cave.

The priest's blond hair was nearly gone, and some of his teeth was missing. He had his white robe on, and there was gold around the edge of the priest's robe. His skin was pale from the lack of sun and exercise, and he had a small belly.

From his hiding place at the ceiling of the cave, the vampire smiled to himself: 'He was getting a little chubby over the last couple of years, this man of God.'

The priest's robe also needed to be washed, and so did the person inside. The vampire could smell it from his hiding place.

The priest walked to the centre of the cave, carrying a torch, and looked down the tunnels going into the deeper underground.

The vampire looked out into the catacombs one more time, but nothing was heard or smelled.

At least the priest had left his weapons, the cross and the staff, back in the catacombs.

The priest was standing in the centre of the cave with the torch in his hand, just waiting.

Being at all those ceremonies, in the holy, sacred church of light, did make one good at standing and waiting.

Holding a single, wood torch in his left hand, because this man of light, was afraid of the darkness.

Shapeshifting into his human-like form, the vampire landed on the floor of the cave. He was still in the shadows, or maybe the shadow was around him. He took a noisy step forward, with deliberation, as he kicked at some of the gravel on the floor, towards the priest.

Still, the priest didn't hear him. Maybe the priest was nervous, or had become hard of hearing in his older days.

As the vampire entered the light from the priest's torch, he smiled and said: "Hallo. Young man."

In a long black silk jacket, and with a white cotton shirt beneath it, the vampire was dressed nicely for the evening. And he also had long black trousers, and white handmade stockings.

His black leather shoes were more expensive than what the priest had earned for himself in his whole life, but then they were living in different worlds. 'What was the idea of having money and riches if you don't spend it on wearing something nice.'

The black, long hair looked well kept, and had an old-fashioned hairstyle. His hair had not changed since he was made. For some reason, his hair stayed the same.

The priest jumped as he sees the vampire stepping into the light, and he held the torch between them. The vampire was used to that reaction from humans in this world. Well, humans who knew what he is.

He looked at the torch, and thought back to earlier memories, how fire was painful, but so was being close to a priest.

After a couple of seconds, the priest stammered:

"Hallo, Darkness, my old friend."

The vampire nodded his head: "You asked for a meeting.? Another trap.?"

The vampire smiled, his white fangs showed.

For newly made vampires, the fangs only extend, when they were about to bite. The older ones had a bit more control, and they could choose to use that control.

The priest kept holding the torch between them, as they moved a little around the cave.

He shook his head: "No. I need your help. We need your help..."

The vampire nodded at the frightened human in front of him: "So did your note say."

The vampire tilted his head a little, and then he smiled at the priest: "The note also smelled of garlic, and silver..."

The priest stammered, and tried to hold the torch between them: "Sorry, but I have no other choice."

The vampire just waited, for the priest to say his message, because being old, time moved slower for him.

Silver only really worked inside the body, and garlic just smelled bad. You could live with both, if you have to.

The priest took a deep breath: "There had been an awakening, and the prophecy was right. Another messiah had awakened."

The vampire nodded again: "The prophecy which says that once every five hundred years or so, a messiah would arise to bring balance.?"

The priest nodded and started to speak, about his area of knowledge. He coughed a little and used a small dirty grey handkerchief to wipe his mouth.

He knew this stuff, because he was his holy church's expert on prophecies:

"Yes, There was the Buddha about two thousand years ago. Our savoir was next, fifteen hundred years ago, and then he was followed by the prophet Muhammed. Then the good side was too strong, and the pendulum swung the other way, and your messiah was born...."

The vampire continued as he nodded and remembered back to his early years: "Lucifer, was created, about five hundred years ago. Yes."

The vampire moved away from the priest and the light, into the darkness of the large cave. His voice came like an echo in the darkness: "And your priests hunted and killed him."

The priest with his torch moved in a circle as he tried to spot the vampire hiding in the darkness. He knew that this mission might be a suicide mission, but he was asked by the Pope himself.

The priest stammered: "Yes, I am sorry for that, but that was the way of the church."

The priest tried to turn around again: "Once enemies become too powerful, they have to be killed, or else your side gets to much power."

The vampire had changed into mist while he mulled over ways to torture the priest. The vampire asked, with his voice being eerie, to get more information: "And who was this next messiah.? What side was he on.?"

The priest stammered while looking around himself: "He is a mage, and might be neutral. They have finally found a champion."

The vampire smiled as he silently reforms behind the priest, moved to the priest and grabbed the hand with the torch: "But mages are a small group, and they are neutral... ?"

The torch fell to the ground, and rolled a little away, and the shadows on the cave wall cast strange figures of the two people fighting.

The vampire opened his mouth and was about to bite the priest, but the priest shouted his holy words:

"In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti."

The vampire was repelled, but not a lot.

He let go of the priest, with half a smile and took a step back from the holy words of God.

Without the weapons of the priest, the words had their own power, but they were weak.

The vampire asked: "So why do you care.? You would be dead within twelve months."

The vampire had touched the priest's chest and felt his uneven heart beat. Many years of hunting humans have taught him the signs...

The priest picked the torch up from the ground:

"I don't care. I am living on borrowed time. But my father, the Pope, cares, and he wants your help."

The vampire smiled again: "And what does the new Pope want from me.?"

The priest cleaned off his rope with his right hand, and turned towards the vampire: "We don't know a lot... The name mar or something like it... And something about the Dalmatia region, just across the water, east of here."

The vampire stepped closer: "And what do you want me to do.?"

The priest had nearly gotten his voice back under control, after the attack: "The pope wants you to hunt and kill him. The kid might be young, and easy to kill. The pope had set a bounty of a thousand gold on his head, death or alive."

The vampire moved around the torch in the priest's hand: "This is a lot of money for a kill."

The priest kept moving so the torch was between them: "Of course, we would also hunt him."

The vampire shook his head: "I still can't see why they are a big problem."

The priest also shook his head, and looked at the catacombs, thinking of the safety within them: "If the mages have themselves a messiah, they might take over the world, and then they would start to hunt you and your kind."

The vampire had already thought that idea through, but his conclusion was another.

The priests wanted power, and control over the masses, because the priest's power came from how many people followed their god.

The evil creatures just wanted to hunt and kill, without being hunted too much, or in his own case, getting more money and power.

Mages wanted control over their own power, because their power came from within.

Oh. Both group would have hunted us, if they know of us, but mages played fair most of the time.

The biggest problem with walking the path of neutrality like the mages does....

Both sides might wanted to attack you.

Maybe it was time for an alliance with the mages.

Or just a truce, of some kind.