The count was an old man, not that anyone could tell by looking at him. He was, after all, a vampire, and even the most ordinary citizens of the universe could tell you that vampires didn't grow old. He was also a man of some wealth, a byproduct of carefully planned high-interest banking and a productive career in land cultivation and ownership; he was also known to flip the occasional mansion for considerable profit. Being wealthy, he could have easily afforded surgeries and ointments that would make him look even younger than he did. The Count had no interest in either source of youth; he was old and felt like he ought to look it.
It was for that very reason he had moved to his current residence. It was an old, traditional castle, located in a part of Tara well known for being low in sunlight, high in acceptance, and favorably inclined towards privacy. A number of months prior he had sent out word to all of the tens of thousands of vampire covens in all the millions of inhabited worlds of the universe, urging them to follow a set of basic principles he'd devised. He wanted to be at peace, no longer worrying about the constant threats of monster hunters, vampire slayers, and hordes of angry villagers that had plagued him for over two thousand years. But what was more, he wanted to make sure that other vampires could do so as well. And he wanted to see it done without costing the lives of more mortals. He wanted to see his cursed spawn live in harmony with the still living folk on whom they now preyed. Tara, he had decided, was the best place to do it from, since here such a possibility was already realized. a plentiful supply of fresh blood was always available, the ordinary folk of the nearby town were not bothered by his presence, and he could read in his vast library without the curtains drawn and not even tan.
"Monster!" The Count heard his front door shatter once again. The third time that day in fact, he hadn't even finished wiping the blood of his last would-be slayer off of his slender blade. "Prepare to meet your maker!"
The Count stood up, rag in hand as he cleaned the polished sword. He didn't even turn to face his opponent before he replied. "I have met my maker. He gave his life for me in fact. I have also met the demon who gave me my curse, and I have cast him back into the depths. I have seen the face of Death, and she sent me out into the world. If you wish to send me to any of them, I hope you will first understand that I do not think any of them would take me in. Such is my life."
It was a dramatic response, but for most of his adversaries, this was to be the most climactic moment of their life, even if they won. It gave them a chance to size him up, to get a look at the room, and let them have every possible advantage of imitative and position. He was nothing if not sporting. But this one had hesitated, she, he could smell it, did not view him as a threat. There was no creaking of the floorboards as she tried to creep into a more advantageous position. There was no hum of magic or chanting of complex spells seeking to bind him. There was not even the draw of a bow or the faint tension of a trigger being eased back. This woman wanted a straight fight, and he would oblige.
"Most vampires I have fought call it a gift, or a blessin even. What have you got against it?"
He heard her nudge a book aside, one of his beloved shelves had been shattered in a fight the previous morning, and he had not been able to find the time to restore it. She hadn't drawn a weapon yet, and while he could feel the magic that seemed to come from her as though carried on a strong wind, he couldn't detect any attempt to prepare an assault.
"I have seen children dragged from their beds in the middle of the night by my hungering spawn. I have seen good men go to their deaths not knowing what lurked in the shadows they sought to expel. They say that vampires are beings without souls, and they do not say it because it is true. I have also seen hunters break into the crypts of vampires who fed only when they needed to, staking them as thy rested simply because they were vampires. This curse ruins more lives than it could ever save."
"Then why don't you end it?"
"Have you read my Three Points? I am trying to at least lessen the impact, even if I could never hope to stop what in my youth I wantonly began."
He heard a sword drawn. A rapier, much like his own, and of good quality he suspected.
"They say that if the first were to die, all those descended from him would die too. If you want to stop vampires, you oughta start with yourself."
He had considered it, many times in fact. It would be easy; locking himself in a glass sphere in space would be fastest and most certain. But in the end, he knew that the demon who had sired him had sired others before him, and most likely others since. Killing himself might, and even then it was hardly certain, end many of the most prominent covens, but certainly not end all of them, and not for all of time either. The only way to be sure would be to kill the demon first; and then find all who he had sired and end them each in turn. Maybe then, and only maybe. But even if he did, he could not simply kill himself. He had lived to long, and grown to comfortable in his undeath to simply end himself.
"I do not believe it would work. Not well enough at least. Are you going to try and find out?"
"Can't hurt to try, can it?" He spun through the shadows, slipping past his desk and into the wide open space before the great window of his library. The woman's strike was like a flash of lightning in the dark, one second darting through the air, the next second gone. When she saw where he had moved she soared up over the desk as though borne by the air itself, twisting her blade in a flourish as she set down facing him.
She wore a T-shirt and jeans, and by the looks of her was a Nielda in her mid forties. Older than most his opponents, but he'd learned the value of age from personal experience. Most curious of all was not her flippant attitude towards his own power and skill, but the pale blue of her hair. He had smelled no dye when she entered the castle, and could sense no spell to alter her appearance. Yet in no species he had met, nor in any he'd read cataloged did such a color come by nature, and certainly not the Nielda, who took much pride in their natural hair. As he effortlessly began to parry her blows, though she was both strong and swift, he began to remember a time in his youth when a sybil had told him of a girl he would meet, saying only 'you will know her by her hair'. And so, as he flicked her blade skywards, the Count began to wonder. Could this be the woman he was fated to spend his life with?