Hrana is the name of the main character in my epic fantasy novel Kings of Infinite Space. She is a two-thousand year old vampire, first of her kind and mother to a race of vampires, but also a warrior, a thief, a wizard and a lover; naturally bloodthirsty, but good-hearted.
I was bemused to discover, years later, that hrana is Serbian for food, and I still can’t decide whether that’s oddly appropriate or not.
Kings of Infinite Space is a grand epic fantasy with many characters, many species, with gods, wizardry and magical items. Vampires are just one part of that, but Hrana’s history is an important part and makes for a largely standalone story. Thus my decision (all those years ago now) to publish it as a novella.
Which happens to be free for the next couple of days.
There was nothing accidental about our first meeting. Rashimin had heard the tales of a vampire terrorizing the vicinity and had asked Wolf to track me down. Wolf had succeeded easily; I was very inexperienced in those days. I woke up one evening to find myself surrounded by wolves, every one of them tasting more strongly of wizardry than any wizard I had encountered yet. I was very close to panic, but the ring told me to calm down. Since the wolves seemed quite content just to watch me I decided to trust the ring’s judgement. I relaxed, a little.
He’s trying to talk to you, the ring told me. Allow me to bridge you.
Speak to me? Since when did wolves speak? ‘Please,’ I said to the ring.
Hrana, Wolf. Wolf, Hrana.
Greetings, a wolf — Wolf — said. Somehow.
‘Greetings,’ I replied, from polite instinct.
Man wishes to meet you.
Wolf did not bother to elaborate. He indicated only that I should follow, then turned and started south towards the Almea. I jogged along easily, surrounded by lithe, lean, lupine forms, and found myself admiring their loping gait. At the ring’s suggestion I stopped once to feed at a village on the Oberno road (although I would much rather have tasted the wolves’ tantalizing blood), and shortly afterwards I halted briefly to bathe in a refreshingly cool river.
It was summer, my least favourite time of year. The nights are too short and too warm, the atmosphere is oppressively humid and rent with frequent, violent storms (my goddess loves storms but they make me uneasy). The Almea is a wonderful place to spend the summer, however. Besides the many cool rivers to bathe in, the forest is alive with animals from deer and monkeys to owls and badgers, their young just beginning to walk or to fly, and there is a multitude of night-flowers whose pale petals may seem bland to other eyes but to my nocturnal eyes they are a symphony of distinct hues clamouring for archlight in a discordant chorus of hunger.
Hunger! I see hunger at the root of everything! (But perhaps that is inevitable since roots are themselves an expression of hunger for nourishment and stability.) That night the very air felt hungry. The cloud cover had been thickening for over a week and that night I had not caught a single glimpse of the moon or the arch. Whenever I looked up it felt as if that celestial curtain was falling towards me, and I am mildly claustrophobic. What with the stagnant air and the sense of impending doom, I found myself praying for the storm to begin — the storm that the night hungered for.