My eyes take in the surrounding scenery after I’ve stepped outside the mausoleum and gone down the flight of stairs.
Countless of graves with different shapes and various symbols and materials dot the ground as far as eye can see. My visibility reaches to about a kilometer or two in all directions until the view gets eventually blocked off by the density of evergreen trees and graves. I can’t see where the graveyard ends.
Despite it being night, I have no problems seeing as far as physically possible, as if it was day.
‘I like this night vision already!’
I take a look at the sky. I can see two wildly different moons some distance from one another. The smaller dark grey moon, Bless, is closer to the horizon. The three times larger lapis blue moon, Lunea, is following its smaller sister, about two hours behind. It's now roughly in the middle of the sky.
So it’s a bit past midnight, I guess?
There’s no snow in sight so the season is nowhere close to winter. Cresta is the coldest region on the entire continent and has cold, snowy winters.
It’s not winter so days are can get quite long here in the north, especially during the summer. But even in the worst case scenario of it being mid-summer, I should have a good four hours before I have to seek shelter from the sun, Solas.
I don’t know the current year, month or day, but I do know how days and time in general works in the world, thanks to my fortunately abundant knowledge.
A year in consists of 365 days, which are divided into 24 hours, 60 minutes and 60 seconds each. The days of a year are divided into 7-day weeks and 12 months, with 30 days in ten of the months. The third month has 33 days and the tenth month has 32 days. Every fourth year the tenth month gets a 33rd day as well. The year changes in spring.
Well, the date or season doesn’t matter for the moment; I’ll just be happy that it’s near midnight and I don’t have to trudge in the snow while naked.
Since I can’t see the edge of the graveyard from, I decide walk around the mausoleum to the other side.
Some distance ahead I can see remains of a tall spiked metal fence.
‘I knew it!’ a smile spreads on my face.
There’s no way a mausoleum of this size would be far from the edge or entrance on a graveyard of this size. I wouldn’t even be surprised if this graveyard is somehow related to the royal family, with the size of this building and the coffins inside it.
I forgot to check if there are any names or identifying markings on the coffins. I guess I’ll check when I get back from my hunt for food.
I start walking briskly towards the fence but don’t get far before I notice some movement in the corner of my eye to the left.
I stop and stare at the grave around which I think I saw the movement.
A badly rotten corpse is standing with its back towards me, swaying unsteadily without making sound. A ghoul?
Well, if this graveyard has had enough death and mana to give form to a pure vampire, which are born once or twice in a millennium, it should be no surprise to see lesser undead in large numbers as well. Things like skeletons or zombies or skeletons or... or… other forms of undead! I didn’t mention skeletons twice.
Hmph, my knowledge about different types of undead seems to be lacking despite being one myself.
Hell, I wouldn’t even be surprised if there were other intelligent undead like liches around here.
Back to what’s happening though, the ghoul turned around and is staring at me. They are corpse eaters so technically it should be interested in eating other undead, right?
It doesn’t seem interested in me though, I wonder why?
See? It’s even walking away now.
Is it because I’m a much higher level undead and it knows that by instinct?
I lift my right hand in front of my mouth and place my left hand to my waist in a manner Princess Cristina used to do sometimes.
“Bow before my greatness, you lowly corpse. Oh ho ho~” I muse in a quiet voice. “Just kidding~ ♪“
I continue towards the tall iron fence. It consists of tall spikes that are connected to each other with more iron near the base and the top. The base of the fence is some kind of light grey stone and the spikes are embedded into it.
Did I mention the fence is tall? I'm really starting to feel like a dwarf the more I see these tall and large things. I refuse to believe I'm that short though! I'll need more comparison points before I start crying about my height.
It appears to be in really bad shape now that I get closer to it. The iron parts are almost completely covered in thick layer of rust and the fence is missing large portions of it in both directions all along its length.
‘Is nobody taking care of this place?’ no matter how I look at it, nobody has bothered with this graveyard for decades.
I can’t help but get a feeling that something bad must’ve happened when the Wave of Death was cast. Did Cresta lose the war? Or did something go wrong with the spell?
I can’t see a gate anywhere. Planning to go around and through one of the already existing holes in the fence, I firmly grab one of the rusted iron spikes and casually shake it to see how sturdy the fence is.
The five-meter iron pole, as thick as my arm, gets snapped off its adjacent spikes and the stone basement.
I lift the pole barely feeling any weight from it, examining it with question marks floating in my head.
'Eeeh!? I’m this strong!? No matter how I look at it, this is iron!'
Uh, nevermind. I mean sure, vampires are strong. I just wasn’t expecting this. I’ve been watching human memories and learning human knowledge ever since I gained consciousness for the first time.
Good that I found out now, I’ll need to learn to adjust my strength. It might take some time, but I don’t want to be some comedy character, who accidentally rips off the entire door when just trying to open it.
Hm, I could use this as a weapon, no? Waving the pole around slowly, it gives a humming sound as it cuts through the air. Even if it’s just rusted iron, it has a sharp tip meant to prevent grave robbers from climbing over it.
But it’s way too long and unwieldy as is, no matter how light it feels.
‘Time to try this out,’ I think excitedly, glancing at my nails. It feel like I naturally know how to do this.
I tense up my fingers and the nails curve and grow to a length slightly longer than my fingers.
‘Eh, what’s this!? How does that even work? Where’s the entire length of my nails hidden in? Is it magic? So cool!’
I hold the pole horizontally in front of me around the middle, and slash at it with the claw of my index finger. With a clang the nail cuts cleanly through the pole with a small feeling of resistance and the blunt end of the pole drops to the ground with a thud.
I’m starting have doubts the usefulness of this ‘spear’ if I can cut it that easily. These nails are obviously much more reliable! But I’ll stick with the pole for now, even if it ends up being mostly useless, it has decent reach and at least shows to potential threats that I’m armed.
Alright, now armed, it’s exploration and feeding time!
The graveyard appears to be within a large park or something. I just walked among the trees for a few minutes after going past the fence and reached a town.
Or more like a city. Yeah, this is definitely the Estmoor from my memories.
But there’s no sign of the beauty and luster it had in them.
The city is dead. Not just dead in the sense that everyone is sleeping because it’s night time. It’s dead quite literally. Capital of the dead.
The city looks like a ghost town. The stone buildings are in poor condition. Many doors and all windows are broken. The taller buildings are missing roofs or even floors. Some are completely collapsed, filling the streets with rubble. The endless armies of weeds are doing their best to conquer the kingdom of cobblestone.
There are bones and skeletons of humans littered everywhere, like everyone just died at the same time without any warning. The condition of the corpses gives away that the people have died decades ago, and obviously nobody has come to claim the city as their own ever since.
Well, shit. This is worse than my worst fears. I could be fucked.
Panic starts creeping up my spine.
I can see some skeletons and ghouls wandering around some distance away minding their own business. Nothing here has blood flowing in their veins. Most of them don’t even have the said veins to begin with!
Shit! This could actually be really bad. The city is huge and if there are no living beings here I’ll starve to death within a couple of days.
I don’t know how often I need to eat as is. Vampires don’t need to feed as often when they start ‘stocking up’ on the life essence they absorb from blood, but the intervals at which my stomach reminds me of its needs are getting shorter.
I’ll need to find a high spot. Hopefully some tall building still stands. There are no hills or mountains within the city itself. The nearest hill is a couple of kilometers southwest from the outer walls of the capital, but the city is huge so the distance is much longer, since I don’t believe myself to be anywhere near the western gate.
I don’t remember the exact layout of the capital, but I can maybe remember points of interest when I see them from high up.
All I can see are human corpses; I don’t see any animal corpses like horses. There’s a small chance that some of them still live near areas where animals were kept, such as the stables or pigpens.
If that’s no good I’ll have to quickly leave this city and look for some wildlife to feed on in the surrounding plains, preferably before morning.
At first I sprinted around the streets aimlessly searching for a tall building or monument to climb on, but quickly slowed down to a very fast walk when running became too annoying.
‘I really need to find something to wrap these up with!’ I scowl down at the fairly large mounds on my chest. At first I wanted clothes just for the sake of modesty, but the reasons have changed. There’s nobody to gawk at me other than rotting corpses and skeletons and these breasts are just an inconvenience if allowed to bounce around freely.
Yeah, I get it. Having desirable looks is convenient when luring in a dinner, which is why pure vampires tend to be born with good looks, but right now this body a bit annoying. I glare at the blue moon, playing with the idea that its namesake goddess gets the message.
For now I take a good grip on my makeshift spear with one hand and try to wrap the other arm around my chest and start jogging lightly.
I’ve been searching through the city for some time now and found no buildings higher than two stories still intact. But I’ve recognized a few places and do have a decent understanding of where within the city I’m in now.
I should reach the main street on the eastern district after a few more turns. Then I’ll head for the royal castle. It has its own defensive walls and is sturdily built, so I should get a good vantage point from somewhere once I get there.
I’ve seen dozens of low level undead so far but none of them have shown any interest towards me. They react to sounds, but I haven’t bothered wasting time trying to communicate with them yet. I’ll have to do some experimenting later when I’m not so strapped for time.
Turning to the wider main street I can see the royal castle some distance ahead.
It should take me about ten minutes to reach it at the speed I’ve been jogging. It’s clear as moonlight that the castle and its walls have suffered some heavy damage. The four main towers in the corners have crumbled down. But the main castle is still mostly intact on the southern side. The southern balcony on the third floor looks like my best bet. I should get a good look from there.
But before that…
I face the opposite direction, looking at the open eastern gate. I can’t help but notice how even the thick outer walls of the city have been damaged. The top of the wall is gouged out in resemblance of most of the taller buildings. It’s like someone wanted to even out the city by scooping out everything that reaches past a certain threshold of height.
The guards’ station and stables should be nearby, but...
‘No! I’ll have to ignore the guards’ station for now, clothes can wait. And I smell nothing from the stables on this side of the city. The castle and food come first.’
I turn and start heading for the royal castle.
I found nothing of interest on the way to the castle. Same old ruins everywhere, with no tall buildings or monuments remaining. Bones and corpses are everywhere, some of them moving, most of them not.
I arrive at the humongous portcullis, which unfortunately is closed. Of course there are no living guards around to ask for them to open it for me. The castle walls are damaged but not enough to make a hole I could fit through.
I could try lifting the gate on my own since I’m apparently pretty strong. But before that I’ll go around to check if there are any bigger holes in the wall or if the other three gates are closed as well.
Call it intuition or whatever, but my gut tells me I’ll have better chances if I go north. The damages I’ve seen so far seem to be worse towards the north than the south. The Wave of Death was also cast from the Tower of Magic Research which is north from the capital.
My guess proved to be right. The damage to the wall gets significantly worse as I get closer to the northern entrance.
It takes me some time to get to the northern entrance, the castle and its grounds are quite vast after all. There were no large breaches in the wall on the way but as I reach the steel portcullis, I note how it’s severely bent inwards in the lower middle.
It can’t be lifted up because of the damage, but there’s a large enough gap under the gate for me to crawl under.
I’ve seen so many memories from inside and near the royal castle that it feels like returning ‘home’ as I walk into the courtyard. Most of my knowledge and memories are from people who worked within these walls for a long the time.
There are corpses littered everywhere (both moving and non-moving) and even though I’ve never actually been here personally before, I have a tightening feeling in my chest as I observe the state of disrepair spreading around me. Just like everywhere around the city, nature has started taking over the surroundings.
Shaking my head, I increase my pace which had slowed down as I was being sentimental.
The northern quarter has mostly collapsed and all the entrances have caved in. I head right, aiming for the main entrance of the castle in the southwest.
A glance to the sky tells me the moons have moved quite a bit and the horizon in the east is starting to brighten, but I should still have two hours before sunrise, maybe more.
I find the main entrance to be intact and enter the castle.
After leaving the graveyard, I was always keeping my spear ready. But by now, as I’ve seen nothing but low level undead and sensed no living beings anywhere, I’ve dropped my guard and just sloppily hold the spear next to my hip, wobbling and balancing it in my fingers casually as I walk around. I don’t think there’s anything that wants to or can harm me in this entire capital, other than the approaching morning.
Walking around the castle, I occasionally check inside rooms to see if there’s anything of interest. All the windows seem to be broken and everything is covered in a layer of dust. I’ve completely started ignoring the bones and corpses by now. The walls are mostly intact and there are fewer holes on the roof as I get southeastern stairs leading to the second and third floors.
A faint delicious smell reaches my nose. Blood.
Instantly my senses sharpen to full attention. I had started to relax a bit too much. I take a proper grip on my spear and start walking fast towards the smell, making sure to move without making a sound. I hear an annoyingly loud grumble from below.
“Shut up!” I hiss at my stomach, as if it had a mind of its own.
I follow the smell to the second and third floor ignoring everything else and realize it’s wafting from near the third floor’s southern balcony. The balcony is the highest point I can reach in the castle in its current state and it had been my destination from the beginning.
The metal framed glass doors are open into the balcony. ‘What could be giving such a strong and delicious smell?’
I can barely hold myself from rushing in without care. I slowly creep closer with my spear and nails prepared and try to peek into the balcony. I feel some pebbles shift under my feet.
A flock of birds scatter about, scaring me, but by instinct I drop the spear, to jump into the balcony and manage to catch one bird by the neck and grab another by its wing. Before even realizing it, I’ve sunk my teeth into the bird and suck hard.
‘Oh~ ♥ How can anything taste this good? It’s the first thing I’ve tasted since being born but what a lovely taste it is. So sweet!’
Way too quickly, within four gulps, the feast is over and I glance at the other bird, still flapping desperately in the ground as I grip its wing. I sink my teeth into its body without delay.
After a contented sigh I lick my lips and come back to my senses.
Well, that was embarrassing, I completely lost myself there. But I feel so much better now. I hadn’t even realized it before, but I had been feeling quite sluggish before compared to how I feel right now. Or is it just the strengthening effect blood has on us vampires?
I’m on my knees on the floor and take a look at my left hand, still holding the pigeon which was my first meal. My nails had dug into the bird and my grip had completely crushed its body by accident. It probably died instantly. The bird in my right hand is not in a much better looking shape.
And it was not nearly enough, just two flimsy birds. I lick the blood off my left hand which had crushed the first bird and bite my lip in frustration. I just got a taste but it was not a proper meal.
‘Try to think positively. At least it was something to eat.’
Oh right, what scared the birds? And the smell of the blood couldn't have come from the birds, right? I don't think they had open wounds.
I glance around me and see a half eaten corpse of some unrecognizable little bird. 'What? I didn't know pigeons eat small birds,' I look at the remains of my first meal. Now that I think about it, they are very big for pigeons, and those beaks look sharp. Are they some mutations?
'Oh well,' I glance behind me and see pieces of shattered glass next to my spear.
So I stepped on pieces of broken glass panels from the balcony doors? I barely felt anything though. Speaking of which, running around the city with my bare feet didn’t hurt either. Being a vampire really is convenient.
I’ll need to be more careful in the future though. I jumped at the food without any care for my safety as I still didn't know what gave off the smell of blood, and I don’t want to scare my prey away like I did with the shattered glass. While my hearing, smell and sight are exceptional, many wild animals have good senses too.
I get up and a sudden wind blows my hair about as I look at the scenery spreading in front of me. I could use a higher view point, but I can at least see in all directions in the city up to the outer walls, except to the north. I look at the scenery for a while, mulling over my memories for the important locations and try to pinpoint as many of them as I can from here.
The horizon is getting bright in the east and first moon has already disappeared to the west. The second one will be gone in two to three hours as well.
I probably don’t have much time before morning, I should find shelter. I didn’t get much of a meal but it should help me get over the first day.
Burning the important locations and their directions into my mental map of the capital for future reference, I grab my spear and without forgetting to wrap my arm around my chest, jump off the balcony. Despite being in the third floor, I have no trouble landing safely on my feet without pain.
I guess I’ll go raid the royal armory for something to wear and spend the day there.