Starlight is a historical Shadow Sprawl setting story.
Artwork by Samuel Pray, created using Daz 3D, Filter Forge and Photoshop
“Mother?” A soft, concerned female voice reached out from the darkness. “Are you there?” Steps, the footfalls of a dozen or more of their kind, moved with the conversation. “I’m not sure where she is.”
“You’ll be able to find her, all you have to do is concentrate.” A male voice this time, harsher though the concern matched that of the previous speaker.
“She’s hiding, she doesn’t want to speak with us, that’s the only reason why she wouldn’t answer when called.” A third voice, a younger female?
“Hiding? I don’t understand. Why would she hide from us.” The first female asked as the group stopped. “She’s our mother and she must know that we’re trying to help her. He’s pushing her into the wrong decision, she must realize that - no, of course she understands that. It’s just that, well, he’s her husband and…”
“He’s our father and we know he is in the wrong.” The male snarled. “She has grown used to doing what he wants, that’s what this is. She wants to please him and we’ve all seen how he treats her. Not just her, but all of the females within our family and those he brings into the line. He believes he and he alone is the one who should rule and now - now he’s going to push her to one side, stealing power from us and forcing us to kneel to him. Well, I won’t let it happen. Not to me, not to my sisters.”
Lilith closed her eyes. They were blind, deaf and dumb to the reality that was all around them. One day they might come to understand but until that point many would believe she was nothing more than a victim of Caine’s desires. Some even now believed that she had been turned by him instead of the other way around. Not even Caine had told that tale, at least as far as she knew, yet the story had begun nevertheless.
His followers? Perhaps, but she had no proof as no one had carried those words directly to her. Instead it had been second and third hand, conversations she had caught the edge of as she had passed or had touched upon when brushing the minds of her children.
“We need her.” One of the children muttered.
I’m here, you’re just not searching hard enough. And since when had they expected her to answer their summons? As if she were the child and not they? Well, it was time they learned. Lilith didn’t turn toward the sound, there was no point, her children would find her soon enough, even if she remained semi hidden within the welcoming darkness of the night. The link she shared with them made it impossible to hide for any real length of time. She lifted her gaze, letting it wander from one cluster of stars to the next until she found the blueish star that was her favorite. Soft, flickering, tempting and the brightest of the stars. Except it didn’t quite act like the other stars, it moved at a steady pace over the course of the lunar cycle…
“Mother, please, we need to talk. I know you’re out there, I can feel you, please don’t make me hunt you down.” Her daughter called out, a soft hitch to her voice.
Weak child. You know what to do. Lilith didn’t look in the direction of her children, instead she kept her gaze on the blue star. If she closed her eyes and let her mind reach out, she would be able to feel the touch of that star, the pull of it and then nothing else would matter. Starlight was pure, welcoming and it didn’t judge her, unlike the harsher caress of the sun.
Lilith sighed. The sun. She both loved and hated that glowing ball and the power of its touch. It didn’t offer the full, healing magic of the moon, but a more volatile energy that few among her kind had the ability to harness. Worse still, not all of her people could withstand the touch of the sun. Those turned by those who themselves had been turned, had a weakened resistance to the sun. By the time you reached the third generation of turned, sunlight turned from being an irritant that left her children with a growing hunger, to something that could leave them dead and perhaps worse. The fifth generation avoided the sun and Lilith had commanded her children to refrain from turning others if they were fifth generation turned.
Not all listened to her, of course. Some preferred to listen to Caine and her husband - well - he had long since ceased to pay words the attention they deserved.
To be fair, she’d done the same with him, though it had taken a little longer than it apparently had with Caine.
No more excuses, we both played an active role in this.
The children created at generation sixth and beyond were little more than monsters, and none had managed to create ones beyond the tenth generation - which were little more than whining, whimpering, short lived servants with little will or drive beyond their next meal. Had any of those creatures lived past a decade? Not to her knowledge and she prayed it would remain so. They were dangerous, hard to control and their all consuming hunger was seldom sated.
Creatures best destroyed - lest they be the death of us all.
“Mother, why didn’t you answer us?”
Lilith took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders and turned to look at the woman, knowing that they weren’t alone. A dozen others watched and listened. Some out in the open, others lingering in the shadows no doubt in the hope that they wouldn’t be seen. Would they never learn that she could always see them or at least sense them? No, of course not. Only the oldest of her children, such as the woman who waited for an answer, understood that there was a link that bound the race together.
Will that change when this night is done? Will they begin to understand the world around us and the sacrifices they must make, that I must make, if our people are to survive?
“I had things I wished to tend to before we gather this night.” Lilith let her gaze deliberately move from her oldest daughter to the others with her. “As I am sure you well know.”
“This can’t happen, mother. You know that. This is his doing, an attempt to force us all to heel by threatening to cast you aside. We won’t do it. He can’t be allowed to get away with this.” Her daughter frowned, turning for a moment to look at the others who had come with her before turning her attention back to Lilith. “We can help you, mother. He won’t be able to stand against us all, not if we unite and confront him.”
“Oh child, I wish you could understand how misguided you are in this.” Sorrow rippled through her being but Lilith didn’t look away. “Stop, think and listen before you act. Your pride and anger will only make this worse. Not just yours alone, but those of your companions.”
“Mother, please. We have to talk about this, decide how we will fight his…”
“This isn’t his demand.” The girl refused to listen. Where her children really so blind? Did those who, even now, sought out Caine think that this was his doing, or hers instead? When would they realize that this was for the best? “This is something we both know is for the best.”
A cool breeze lifted the edges of Lilith’s robes and hair alike, rustling a path through the trees. Soft voices, not those of her children, carried from far away. Humans on a hunt. Nymphs playing in the streams and there, something else, one with the power to shift form ran with his family, searching for safety away from the dangers offered by the human hunters.
Humans. They were the dangerous ones. Their blood was too bland to feed her children long term, but they were strong, determined creatures, and they hunted her children. No, that wasn’t the full truth. They hunted the males of her kind and did so in the name of Abel.
The First Sons.
She shuddered at the memory of those dangerous creatures, for nearly two thousand years they had hunted down her sons and the turned males, destroying them, tearing them apart before moving onto the next target. Once and once alone had they come close to striking Caine but he had managed to escape. Thankfully her daughters would remain safe, but without males how could they continue unless they turned humans? No, better to control a few males of their own kind and…she shook off the idea and met Isabel’s gaze.
“We cannot allow remain this way, not with the dangers all around us. If we would survive then we must move forward.” As any mother, the survival of her children was her priority, no matter what they might believe at the time. Tears pricked at her eyes and she blinked, forcing them away. This wasn’t what she had thought would happen on that day she had found Caine, still marked by the blood of his brother, wandering the plains lost in his anger and grief.
Oh, he had been so powerful in that moment, tempting and easy to turn. The start of a new line, a male she could spend the rest of her life with. One who would be forever grateful for the gift she had given him.
Foolish - yes, I can admit it, I was blind and foolish just as my children now show themselves to be.
“I-I don’t understand. We’re not prideful, mother. It’s you that is making a mistake. Surely you can see that? We’re not in danger, we’re powerful, nothing can stand against us as long as we all stand together. We feast on the others, even the humans. They are prey and we are the predators. This land belongs to us. We should defend it against any and all who would strike against us.” Violet touched eyes widened as the young woman took a step forward. “This is his doing. He has you believing that half of us are weak. That your daughters and their daughters should back down to their brothers and sons. That we should kneel, obey, and let only the men lead. We both know how foolish that is. Men and women, they lead together. No one sex is stronger than the other. Please mother, you don’t have to protect him any longer, it’s time to stand up and speak for yourself.”
A low growl formed at the back of Lilith’s throat before she had time to prevent it. “Is that what you think of me, Isabel?” I am no man’s play thing. I will not bow! “Speak true, daughter mine. Have you ever seen me kneel to him or any other? Male or female? I am the mother of our race and I do not show weakness.”
Dark eyes lowered as shame colored Isabel’s cheeks. “Well, no…”
“I hear the but that you lack the courage to speak out loud.” Lilith shook her head and looked from Isabel to her other children. More had gathered and were moving through the darkness toward her. Not just children born to her line, either to herself or her children, but some of the first and second generation of the turned. Children by the magic of their blood instead of the bloodline. Yet they were still her children in some form or another. Her anger had no place here and she brought it back under control, all be it kicking and screaming every step of the way. “You believe I am letting him dictate what is about to happen and yet nothing could be further from the truth. This is a decision we have reached together and it is long overdue. What we do this day will serve to protect our people once and for all.”
Protests rippled through the night. Male and female voices combined as one to speak out against Lilith’s words. When had she turned from being the mother of their people to a woman incapable of standing up for herself? Had that ever actually happened or was it nothing more than their perception? Her jaw clenched and she lifted her chin.
“Enough of this.” For the first time in nearly a century, she let the walls down on her power, allowing it to shine through her eyes. Energy crackled through her, adding a strength to her words “It is time you accepted that this split needs to happen before we tear ourselves apart and both you and the children who will come after you, are left to suffer. You will obey me in this or be forsaken.”
As one they cowered, hands lifted in plea. One or two fell to their knees followed by others until Lilith drew the power back into her. Having them afraid of her was not her goal, but if they believed her weak she had to show them otherwise.
“My children, I would never harm you even if you should take this path, but I will not be seen as weak. Not now. Not ever.” She took a deep breath and looked away from this. “This has been our home for too long, we have become settled, and there are now too many of us. Even if we do not split in order to take other paths, we will need to seek out new homes. We are too many in number to be able to hunt here in safety.” It went beyond that. There wasn’t enough food in order to be able to maintain their number. All ready there were complaints about lack of food.
“That’s insane! We know you wouldn’t turn away from us.” Isabel protested, joined by the murmured agreements of the men and women around her. “That would never happen. You would not forsake us, no more than we would turn our backs on you. Who would ever suggest such a thing but our father. He is the one speaking of such evil things but we are stronger than that. We will hold true! We will be able to fight back against the hunters, with your help. We could seek out some of the others, bring them to heel and have them contained as a source of blood. Some come to us even now of their own free will, who is to say that others would not seek to offer themselves in service?” Her daughter drew closer, leaving only a handful of paces between them. “But this won’t work if we tear ourselves apart. Please Mother, we don’t have to let this happen. You don’t have to let this happen. We can move from here, find a better home, build protections and persuade the others to see sense. Perhaps it is this cave, this place that has been home for so long. The hatred he has spread has seeped into the rock and torments the dreams of some.”
“Persuade the others, by that you, of course, mean force.” Lilith kept her voice calm as she lifted her gaze, letting it move around the assembly. Starlight and moonlight offered the only true sources of illumination, but with their bloodline came the ability to see in the dark with an ease that humanity would never be able to understand.
“No, not that, never that…” Isabel paled and shook her head, her long loose, dark hair whispering over her shoulders as she protested. “They are family, why would we ever treat family in such a manner? It would be barbaric.”
“Then how would you persuade those who have different views? Those who wish to have a male led household, or a female led? What of those who want to split off entirely and find their own path? What would you do with them?” Please, see sense in all of this. You do not want to turn to the darkness, to violence. They are your brothers and your sisters. Even as she cast her prayers to the stars she knew it would go unheard.
This had been such a peaceful place when they had first arrived. Here she had given birth to Isabel and her twin brother, Niel. Other children had followed, sons and daughters who had in turn found mates and born children of their own. They had learned to plant crops and harvest from the forests as well as bring in meat, fish and other sources of food from the surrounding area, yet they would always need blood and there lay the true problem.
“You have the power to prevent this, mother.” Neil insisted and took hold of his sister’s arm, tugging her forward. “We would stand with you. Together we can lead our people. They all ready look to us, or some do. Those who have not bent to the will of our father. Perhaps when he sees how this can work, he will accept that he is wrong and embrace the nobility of a people led by men and women both.”
Under your leadership. Ah, my beautiful first borns. You don’t even see what will happen here. You will become the head of the first house. It is how it was meant to be. An image flashed through her mind, a circle of gold - no, two of them, worn by her first twins. Royal twins. Roses formed into the metal, strength and compassions combined with the power split evenly between the genders. Not something she was capable of anymore. She knew that. She would take control without input from others once she was free of Caine. Some of her own children would push her to step up.
“Caine is behind all of this,” a young woman, one of the turned, whispered. “We must fight against those who would have us follow his path.”
“No, we will not fight them but we will contain them.” A figure moved, male, graceful, with the movement of a hunter. “They would be held in peace, but would come to embrace our beliefs in time.” Jacob, one of her younger sons.
In peace. Like humans did when they tried to persuade others, or claim their lands? Had her children learned nothing from the actions of the others who shared their world? She shook her head and sought out her oldest son once more. “And you really believe that would work, Niel? Please my children, tell me when that has worked even once within memory? Or even within legend?” I am wasting my breath here and yet still I try. Her children weren’t stupid, at least most of them weren’t.
There would always be exceptions to the rule.
Mutters followed, uncertainty and discomfort.
“We will make it work,” Niel insisted, his hands clenching into fists at his sides. “It will take time, but it will work.”
Lilith met his gaze. “You mean you will force them to see sense.”
“Well yes… I mean…” he stammered, uncertainty flooding in. “No - no of course not.”
Lilith arched an eyebrow, meeting her wayward son’s gaze.
“All right, maybe we would have to do so, but it would be for their own good. Mother, you have to see the wisdom in all of this. Our people are strongest when they are together. If we split into three houses, or even more, how can we ever hope to survive. Births are difficult, and even pregnancy is rare, no more than once every one hundred years!” Niel swallowed hard and took a step forward. “This separation would see the end of us, surely it is better to persuade the misguided, even if that means harming some of our number in the process, so we may endure, than to see the end of our kind?”
Lilith’s heart sank.
“Mother?” Isabel reached out, touching Lilith’s arm with two fingers. “It won’t come to that. They will understand and accept what we’re trying to do. I’m sure of it. We just need you to work with us on this, if you support us then they will come to understand and accept that this is the way it is meant to be.”
Innocent and blind, wrapped up in their beliefs. They would never accept what she was trying to do. Worse, they believed they were helping her. “We must let this split happen.”
“Mother, you don’t understand!” Neil stepped into her, pushing his sister aside with a growl as he took hold of Lilith’s upper arms. “Can you not accept that we do this for you?”
“No, you do it for yourself.” There it was, the brutal truth and the words sent them reeling back from her. “You are being selfish in your decisions and I will not support your actions.”
“Your mother speaks the truth.” Dark, dangerous and still with the ability to trigger desire in her body, Caine’s voice carried through the night air as he stepped out from the cover of the trees. “And in this we stand together.” Caine split the gathered men and women as he walked through the crowd, followed by those who were sworn to his side. Others appeared from the trees, those who had sworn themselves to Lilith.
“The meeting will take place now, when this is done we will separate out, take the path we decide is best for us. There will no longer be one tribe, one house of those who have been named demons, blood drinkers, monsters who dwell in the darkness. There will be many and we will be vampire from this point on.” Lilith let her voice carry through the night.
“In this we agree. We have caused harm to each other and had we made this choice many years ago, there would be less sorrow among our children, but we will put this off no longer.” Caine inclined his head to Lilith. “My wife, when the sun rises you will be that no longer and I will take those who chose to follow me away from here. Those who believe a household should be male led will flock to me. My words will be law to them, but we will always be connected by blood.”
“My husband, when the dawn comes you will be that no longer and I will take those who chose to follow me away from here. Those who believe a household should be female led, will listen and my words will be law to them - but we will always be connected by blood.” It hurt, more than it should have done, but she embraced that pain.
Lilith smiled and held out her hand to her husband. His hand tangled in hers, strong, scarred and for a moment she felt it again, that shiver of desire that had brought them together that first night. No matter what they had done to each other, the words they had flung at each other, bitter angry words, pleading words, edged and bloodied words, in this they now stood together, beneath the stars, united one last time. Together they spoke the words they had agreed to days before.
“Niel and Isabel, you will remain. Those who believe a household should be led with power shared between male and female. By brother and sister, twins born of the line of twins, shall remain with you. And your words will be law to them.”
It was almost done. Lilith opened the magic, the power she and she alone had access to, letting it spill into her new words. Casting the spell that would bind her children from now until the end of days. “Yet through the ages yet to come we all will be bound by the blood we share. Should there come a time when we need band together to defend out people, to prevent our blood from being spilled to the earth and the last our lines destroyed then - no matter the risks, we will bind together to fight back.”
The crack was audible, the magic connected them, locking them in place for a count of ten heartbeats before the spell, for good or ill, was complete…