First Entry -
I do not remember my life, nor my death; neither do I remember what has transpired since the latter ended. When I awoke I was bestial and savage, my mental faculties misted red, stunted like a bleeding wound, torn; it was not the very fact of this but rather my vague, tormented knowledge that it should not have been so that caused me such agony. The pain was all-consuming, a ceaseless torrent of rage and fear and anguish such that I lashed out against everything around me, my master, my brothers, even the walls of what I saw as my prison. It was as thought the world were attempting to reject me, to cast me out again into the darkness and the cold that are all I remember of my death; and perhaps these are, after all, only dreams. I cannot find the words to describe it; perhaps I never shall, as my skill with them can increase only as the memory of that first ravaged birth-shock fades. Nevertheless, study and meditation have given me some fleeting insight into that crimson-slashed beginning; what I remember is not at all pleasant, but I feel that I should endeavour to embrace it regardless. In the short years of this my second existence I have learned much, and I yearn constantly for more such knowledge. I shall, therefore, keep this account of my days. Its audience, myself; its form, unstructured in the larger sense; its purpose, to provide a record of all I have learnt that I may not forget it. My knowledge has been hard-won—my ability to gain it in the first place torn bloody, as it were, from the jaws of death; though not by me. No, it was a gift; one I shall have to repay with loyalty and deeds. It seems a small price to pay. Very well; first, my origin. Ashur has often told me of my beginning, that I can so ill recall—often, indeed, have I asked of it. It was six and twenty years ago. At that time I was, as Ashur is fond of telling me, a mere desiccated carcass, wasted by years and eaten by worms. This intrigues me. Who was I, all those years ago? I know that my current form must constitute but a fragment of my total existence; at least, that of my body. My reading tells me that a corpse must lie for years before it may be called “desiccated,” and my body would appear to be that of a man older than twenty-six years. My previous nature and doings interest me greatly, but of them, as I have said, I simply have no recollection. On this subject, Ashur is not forthcoming. Should I remember? Ashur does; I do not. Does this mean that my mind is wholly new, or changed beyond recognition from that which once dwelt in this body? Do the answers lurk in the hidden, forgotten corners of my brain, as Annualis would have it? Or are they lost forever? It has been with great mental effort and discipline that I have schooled myself to remember, always, that mine and my siblings’ lot in life (I use the word ironically) is, to put it mildly, an unusual one. Indeed, the world at large is not—and I smile as I write despite the fact that without Ashur and the library even a conclusion so elementary as this would no doubt never have occurred to me—composed of isolated crèches of sibling vampires residing in abandoned cathedrals shaped by the late States Guardian from the living rock of ice-bound mountains and preparing to destroy the new Circle as part of their master’s grand design. No, it would seem that the world is not so simple as that. Thadeus writes that true knowledge may only be gained from our firsthand participation. But since he wrote a book about his belief, I have to wonder if he meant it ironically. Regardless, I must, at least for the foreseeable future, trust my books and trust Ashur, else I must believe that all the world is but rock, and ice, and vampires, and lying books. I do not accept this; there is not only this cathedral, but a whole wide World: lands free of ice, where the air is warm and water runs free and deadly over the ground; lands not mountainous but flat to the very horizon, and beyond them the sea—something I much desire to look upon for myself. Racond and Villenath agree that it is a breathtaking sight fit to swallow the soul itself in its vastness and beauty. Should the opportunity ever arise, I must conceive of some method of seeing it in the daylight. I suspect the moon and stars, sublime though they are, would simply not do it justice. And not only vampires, but Men—fragile beings, by all accounts, though similar in shape and voice to my brothers and me. Short-lived, sickly, hungry, warm pulsating creatures they are, who no doubt have a host of needs and desires opposed or entirely unrelated to merely feeding our ilk. Let them have their ambition, then; I have already said I do not believe I am at the centre of existence, nor do I aspire to be. Ruling it shall be sufficient. Of myself, a little, to conclude this first attempt: I read, enjoy philosophy and history—though I must confess my knowledge is as yet wider than it is deep; as study occupies my mind, so fencing my body; I keep my eyes and mind ever open, but rarely so my guard. I fear nothing, but I fully appreciate this may simply be due to a lack, as it were, of practice. I believe there is power in everything and more still in nothing. I am second-eldest of my brothers and owe my present animation—and I may yet dare call it life—to Ashur born of Isachaar, whom he scorns. My name is Azrael.