The skies of Byzantium were filled with clouds and sunlight, the weather was warm and humid. A perfect day for a public holiday in the Empire, as decreed by her majesty Augusta, today is the day of the Returners. A day of celebration for the Methuselah who commemorate the return of their ancient ancestors - the Mars colonists - who traveled back to earth from the red planet after the nuclear Armageddon had torn the earth asunder so many centuries ago. It was a day of reckoning for all Methuselah, they were all reminded of when the humans drew the blood of their comrades who returned before the main group of colonists did.
“Never let it be forgotten what this day means to us. Never forget where we come from my children.” The Empress was concluding her speech that was being broadcast around the major cities in the Empire. A true rarity that only occurs once every century, when this most sacred day is celebrated by all the peoples united under Augusta Vladica.
“We are the children of Mars, we are those who evolved and were reborn as a new human race, whose only purpose is to lead all of humanity to glory.” The Empress declared the legacy of the Methuselah proudly. “No matter who stands against us, we will always be triumphant, we will always prosper, and our Empire shall live until the end of time.”
Crowds across the Empire who gathered at the speaker phones all screamed in unison and rejoiced at the sound of her majesty’s decree. “Terran or Methuselah, all are equal before my eyes. All our bloods united under one banner and pouring into the same river of prosperity for all eternity.” The crowds of Byzantium were particularly spirited by the final sentence.
“Now go, all ye. Revel in the joy of your mother’s love, and share this day with each other as equals.” The Empress concluded her speech, and the crowds cheered enthusiastically. Despite the fact that nobody knew what she looked like, they only needed to know that she ruled the Empire and that she would always remain on her throne guiding her darling children.
Across Byzantium there were crowds of both Methuselah and Terran mingling, although it wasn’t an ideal world they lived in. People from both races desperately tried to believe in the words of the Empress. Open hostilities between the New Human Empire and the Vatican had ceased since a few decades ago. The situation now was like a dream come true for many. But unfortunately for both sides the fear that war would break out again was still gripping the hearts of many people. “Do you hear that Bayezid?”
The handsome red haired Methuselah inquired his companion as they made their way through the Terran markets that littered the streets as part of the massive celebration. “Apparently we’re all equals now. What a joke.” The baby faced Methuselah sneered.
“Well think of it this way Lazar.” Bayezid responded. “We could be walking through these streets slaughtering Terrans and revel in the terror of their dead faces. Yet somehow we’re walking among them and they’re not afraid to approach us, they don’t even think of us as monsters…” Bayezid said.
“Oh please, the only reason they smile is because they know there’s no choice. Give all the lowly Kethuda and Slaves some guns with silver bullets, and they’ll stop at nothing to wipe us out the moment we turn our backs on them.” Bayezid sighed and simply shook his head. “You’ll never get anywhere in life with that attitude my friend. I’ve personally seen what good the Terrans are capable of.”
He lectured his comrade who’s wit was at its end. “You simply need to understand that progress begins only when both parties commit to it. You’re a part of the problem, and you need to grow up and understand that.” He furiously castigated his comrade. Bayezid rarely exhibited any sort of anger, he’s always been known for his gentle and mild demeanor. Lazar simply let out a sigh and remained silent. “Just… let’s not get into this tiresome debate yet again. I want to enjoy the day, it only happens once every century. Please...”
Bayezid pleaded for his comrade to moderate himself among the Terrans who were frightened by his countenance. “Fine, I’ll shut up. You lead the way then.” He surrendered his strong emotions out of deference to his beloved Tovarish who has stayed at his side since childhood. “You’re like my own brother, Bayezid, and your father is almost the same to me. I never knew my parents, and you’re the only family that I have.” Bayezid placed his arm around the opposite shoulder of his comrade. He recited a proverb very empathetically in the language of the Empire. “Отпусти и забудь.” Which means to let go and forget.
Finally the fiery eyed Lazar simply let go of his tension and became uncharacteristically cheery. The light smile that had subconsciously formed on his face attracted the attention of the young Terran women who watched the two beautiful men pass them by. “Oh! Good day great Methuselah! We offer our wishes to you for this sacred day” The troop of young women called out to them in unison while waving their hands. Lazar shied away from them, but Bayezid waved back to them and wished the same with a great big smile on his face. “You see?” He spoke empathetically to his Tovarish.
“We’re all celebrating something meaningful to us. Even those Terran girls didn’t hold back in sharing pleasant wishes with us.” Lazar sighed. “Yeah…” he grumbled as he relented in acknowledging the validity of his comrade’s point.
“Hey listen, I wanted to ask…” Lazar’s thoughts were cut short by a sharp scream from the all female troupe of Terrans who they just passed by. The duo quickly turned their attention away from their conversation and to the sight of another Methuselah who was holding the one girl by her throat, he extended his claws to her neck.
“Liza!” One of her friends screamed her name. “What are you doing? Let go of her!” The girl demanded the Methuselah release her friend. “Remain silent Terran, or you’re next.” The vampire growled. “And you, little whore. How dare you Terran scum speak so loosely to Boyars on this sacred day?” He was furious and enraged with the girl as his fangs protruded out from his mouth.
“I didn’t do anything wrong! Please let me go.” Liza gasped and pleaded as she barely managed to breathe. “You terran scum didn’t do anything wrong? I think you need a hard lesson in history!” The Methuselah snapped as he prepared to kill the girl with his razor sharp finger nails that he held closely to her neck.
“Enough of that.” Bayezid said. His words were followed by a scream of pain coming from the mouth of the Methuselah. Lazar had entered haste mode and cut off both hands from the vampire who was frozen in horror by the actions of his brethren. “Argh!” He moaned. “What the hell are you doing?! Attacking your own to protect these cattle?” The unnamed Methuselah exasperated himself before the crowd in the Terran district. “You race traitors!” He cursed them.
“The only traitor here is you. Our Augusta has commanded us to make this a day of joy and peace, yet here you come to the Terran district on your own accord simply to cause trouble.” Lazar went into haste a second time and extended his blade across the neck of the injured Methuselah. “Jarls Constantine. In the name of her Majesty and the Empire I place you under arrest for the charges of treason, attempted murder, mass murder, rape, theft of blood and disruption of state events. Surrender peacefully and your life will be spared.” Lazar gazed with his eagle-like eyes at the man before him as he read the wounded vampire his rights.
“Shit. You bastards trapped me…” The crowd started distancing themselves somewhat from the scene. Weary of the consequences of getting involved in a fight between the Methuselah. “One century ago someone else caused a lot of violence and destruction when last this day was celebrated. We were ordered by my father, the Viscount of Slavyansk to take you into custody.” Bayezid said. “Up until now we had no evidence that it was you who committed those crimes a century ago. But it seems that you’ve run out luck now.”
The wounded Methuselah cringed in pain, not only because of the loss of both his hands but also the mentioning of the name of a particular Boyar. “You are… the son of Mehmet Al Assad?” He wheezed. “Yes, that is correct.” Even the Terrans were shocked to hear that a Methuselah of such high stature would be involved in this. Mehmet Al Assad was famous throughout the Empire for his relentless hard work and commitment towards promoting peace between Terrans and Methuselah. The man was also greatly despised by some of his brethren, but the Empress did decorate him once for his efforts.
“You… you are the son of the greatest traitor to our race!” The Methuselah leaped at Bayezid extending several additional limbs from out underneath his body that he generated instantly. “Die you terran loving bastard!” He screamed as he went into haste mode. The girls faces went blank and screamed in terror. “Argh!” The Methuselah who leaped at Bayezid had been utterly decimated and sliced into pieces within the same second of his attack. His blood splattered everywhere. Bayezid didn’t move an inch from where he stood.
“Well done.” Lazar said.
“That was fast, I didn’t expect we’d catch him so easily, although you made quite a bloody mess of things, Tovarish.” Lazar commended the impressive death dealing powers of his comrade. “All in a day’s work Lazar.” Bayezid replied with his eyelids closed. “Such a pity…” He said. “It couldn’t be helped, he refused to surrender and he was guilty of grievous crimes against the Imperial will.” Lazar assured Bayezid.
“Uhm…” A frail and gentle voice called out shyly to Lazar. “Hmm?” The Methuselah noticed the Terran girl he’d saved stood behind him. “My lord, thank you so much. Great Methuselah… I owe you my life.” Liza said to Lazar. “Hohoho, well Lazar, it seems you’ve earned the heart of a beautiful young woman.” He teased his friend. “Argh, don’t start with that, you know it’s forbidden!” Lazar shouted down his friend’s suggestions. “Hahahaha. Indeed, but I’m sure her majesty would make exceptions? Regardless, you should at least be courteous to the young lady behind you.” Bayezid suggested.
Lazar turned on his heels and faced the delightful young woman whose face was bright red. “You are most welcome, Liza is it?” He spoke in an unfamiliarly gentle tone. “You are unharmed I hope?” He inquired. “Yes! Thank you, I really don’t know how I can begin to repay you, but I’ll do anything that I possibly can!” The girl insisted. Bayezid simply smiled. “Well Lazar?” He grinned mischievously. “Sigh…” Lazar was defeated.
“If you insist, I suggest you travel to the western side of the city tomorrow morning and come to my residence. If you wish, I can secure employment for you and your friends.” The young women were all screaming in joy now, despite the fact that just a few moments ago a very bloody scene had taken place. Lazar was not the cold hearted Terran hater that most considered him to be. Deep down he shared the same empathy for them that his comrade Bayezid did.
“Well… I can see that you’re going to be busy in more ways than one my friend. Seeing as now you’ve earned yourself quite a tasteful Harem. I never knew you had it in you!” He playfully winked to his friend and made fun of the circumstances. Some of the women giggled while others simply remained silent and blushed. Lazar was growling. “Listen to me, I am coming dangerously close to making mincemeat of you as well.”
He shook his fist at Bayezid. But it was clear to the crowd that he was only jesting. Despite the bloody mess around them, the crowd of Terrans cheered for the two men and hailed them as heroes for saving the girls. Medical teams arrived on the scene with police forces, the latter tried to disperse the crowds somewhat while the former went to clean up Bayezid’s mess. The young women bid farewell to Lazar as they made their way off and thanked him for giving them a chance to make it into the big world.
Although at the same time both he and Bayezid noticed that while all was cheerful, there was an unusual aroma of anxiety that overshadowed the situation that the two just dealt with. “Tovarish?” Lazar called out to Bayezid as he gazed into the clouds. “What is it?” He asked. “I don’t know, but something isn’t right in this city today. My father seemed very anxious this morning… he said that someone important summoned him.”
He murmured. Lazar caught onto those words immediately. “Someone important… you don’t mean her majesty do you?” Lazar inquired. “I don’t know, he wouldn’t tell me. Last I saw him, he went into those underground catacombs we found under our estate when you and I were children.” Lazar’s curiosity was at its peak. He remembered when they were children, the Viscount of Slavyansk guarded the catacombs under his family’s historical estate very fanatically. He even went through great efforts to keep imperial inspectors away from there.
“Why? What’s he hiding down there?” Lazar walked over to his comrade and whispered his question quietly into Bayezid’s ears. “I don’t know. But it’s something very ancient, and powerful. That’s all he told me... in that place lies something important. And if ever I find myself with all hope lost – it is there in the catacombs of my ancestors where I will find salvation.” Bayezid reminisced on the time when he and his friend were lost in those catacombs, the both of them were quite harshly punished for entering that place. But Mehmet did take advantage of the situation to impart some important knowledge to his son without exposing whatever it was that he hid within there.
“Follow the song, and you will find him when you have no hope left.” That’s what my father said to me. Lazar couldn’t quite grasp exactly what was going on in the mind of his Tovarish. But none the less, he assured him of something fundamental. “Know always, that I am bound by blood to you. So long as I draw breath, I will always be at your side.” Lazar warmly imparted these precious words to his Tovarish. “Thank you Lazar, and to you I will always be a friend.”
The two men progressed with their day taking in the sights and sounds of Byzantium. The capital of the Methuselah’s Empire was at the peak of its liveliness. But deep within the skies something wicked was about to descend upon the sacred day.