The Master had a brilliant plan. Really, it was top notch. He should win an award.
He wondered when they would start making awards for pure genius. Perhaps when his plan worked and he had complete dominion, he would order someone to fashion him a medal of some sort.
The Master surveyed his fervent workers with a deep sense of satisfaction. They were all—every last one—supposed to be servants of God. And the really funny part was that they still thought they were. They would glance up at The Master on occasion from their tireless scurrying and draw all the holy inspiration they needed from his handsome, youthful, innocent face. Well, “youthful” is of course relative, but The Master did not at all feel his full age—281 in the rapidly-approaching Year of Their Lord 1572. But they didn’t know that, of course.
The Master, feeling it prudent to understand his Ultimate Enemy to the fullest extent, had spent the past seven years in a remote Italian monastery studying the ways of God and his people. It was terribly dull.
Except for that hour each night when he went out to hunt. Apart from the obvious pleasures, he learned something very important from his nightly murder, which he often liked to jestingly attribute to God for the irony. He learned about the power of fear in leadership. As panic began to rise in the villages nestled in the cracks of the mountain and that sprawled in the Alpine foothills, the churches became busier and more and more young men came to join the monastery. And when one of the holy monks themselves was taken by this mysterious Night Shadow, The Master watched the chaos with thoughtful contemplation for the first real time since entering the monastery.
Aided by the extremely useful innocence that his good looks and demeanor naturally portrayed, The Master pressed on the painful knots of fear and doubt in the hearts of the monks, and began to gather followers. When the time was ripe, he went out one night in “unwavering faith in the Lord’s protection” to confront the beast, and the killings stopped immediately (imagine that!). He was thereafter was hailed as God’s Chosen Leader in the entire region, for which The Master gladly settled—for the time being, anyway. By his seventh year since entering the monastery (he had to admit that God was right about the auspiciousness of that number), every last one of the monks was a devoted follower of his righteous teachings. And then, preferring a more suitable nickname, he ordered the monks (nicely) to call him “Master,” on the pretense that it referred to his mastery of spiritual enlightenment. The Master smiled at the thought.
It was rather unfortunate that The Master was now stuck drinking animal blood on the sly to sustain himself—but let no one say that the Master did not make sacrifices for the greater evil. Besides, it wouldn’t have to be for much longer. His plan was simple, really: they had written him a spell, using their God-given talents of eloquence and education (a little flattery never hurt anyone) for “God’s Highest Purpose.” And tonight they were going to perform it.
The monks were a little resistant to the idea of witchery, of course, but through a careful selection of misleading words, just enough passionate emotion about the direct orders he received through hours of ceaseless and earnest meditation on the Will of God (he had actually been sleeping—lying to an entire monastery was hard work), he managed to convince them that it was really more of a prayer than a spell. A rather complex and precise prayer, to be sure, but as The Master preached, God was a rather complex and precise being. And no one wants to feel the wrath of God over an incorrect word, do they? (The Master sometimes wondered how God could be wrathful if Wrath was one of the Seven Deadly Sins, which would inevitably lead him to the even more pressing quandary of, Which of the Seven Sins was his favorite and why?)
To the monks, the “prayer” was meant to bring legions of people into God’s fold; the enthusiasm for this goal The Master noticed was a tireless one in the Christian faith, so he used it to his full advantage. But there were a few hidden homonyms and plays-on-words that, when The Master participated in the spell, he would subtly change the intention and it would work to bring people into the Master’s fold instead. The monastery would be transformed into his palace (the first on his long list of interior re-decoration to-do’s would be the removal of that cross that made his skin itch unpleasantly; and then he would mandate a new, much more comfortable, dress code), and people would flock to it. It would be slow at first, but the more people under his thrall, the faster they would come. Some would be eaten, some would be turned, and some would be played with. All would be eternally devoted to him.
And he, literally, did not even have to lift a finger. The Master smirked. He was so brilliant.
“Pardon me, Master?”
The Master turned to the monk addressing him. “Yes, my brother?”
“We are ready.”
The Master smiled. “Excellent…”
All the Master remembered of the spell—or cared to remember—was incredible pain. His bones burned like the Arctic’s coldest ice, but his skin melted and boiled like water in a cauldron. It was completely unexpected; a few people would have to die for the inconvenience and indignity of his shocked screams. Oh, and he also remembered something else: a voice. Something about, “And you really thought this would work? Please. My people worship me for a reason…” But again, The Master really didn’t care to think about it.
When it was over, The Master laid cold and shuddering on the stone ground. There was a collective gasp from the crowd of monks as the smoke from the spell cleared away, and The Master listened to the buzz of anxious murmurs. Something wasn’t right.
“What are you, Beast?” one of the monks cried.
The Master opened his eyes and his mouth dropped in shock. His hands were…ugly. His skin was the blue-ish color of death and his nails were long and sharp like talons. He sat up, probing his body with his fingers. His skin was loose and old, like it had aged 1,000 years, and his hair no longer fell in beautiful curling locks to his shoulders. In fact…The Master tentatively touched the top of his head with fingers that now repulsed him and gasped in horror. He had no hair at all.
The Master growled, then yelled, spittle flying from behind his sharp yellow teeth. Then he shoved himself off the ground, tore through the crowd, leapt through the window, and disappeared into the night.
It was several months before the Master could find someone willing to draw his face. The artist relinquished the finished drawing hesitantly; the paper itself infused with his terror. The Master stared at his likeness, hardly able to recognize himself anywhere but the coldness of the eyes. The Master frowned.
“Well…” he said. “Damn.”
And then he left without even bothering to kill the artist.
Thereafter, The Master began telling a lie. It was rather a brilliant lie, he thought. It struck awe and fear in the cold, rotten hearts of vampires everywhere, and The Master began to gather a following again, ascending this time to a much more fitting throne. His followers told the lie as a source of pride amongst each other.
And like a father to his children, The Master would take their shoulders and assure them with a smile that if they’re evil enough and drink every last drop of their food, some day they, too, would live long enough to grow past the curse of human features.
One day, several hundred years later, The Master heard a rumor. The rumor was of a mystical spot on the far edge of the New World where the Mouth of Hell was unusually close to the surface of the earth.
And then The Master got another brilliant plan. Really, top-notch, award-winning brilliant.