Mors is a millennial vampire, dating back to the Roman republic. As a human, he was one of the republic’s greatest generals. He quickly achieved greatness as a vampire too, being unwilling to live wholly in shadow. In THE MOONLIGHT BRIGADE, he is predominantly concerned with channeling the warrior within to fight the Axis powers, but the book dips into his colorful history as well. This is just the sort of thing that he might have done.
The Tale of Robin Hood
"If you’re joking, I’ll have you hanged, drawn, and quartered."
The deputy murmured a quick prayer of thankfulness that he was not joking.
"I swear, Sheriff, five wealthy noblemen throughout Nottingham report being robbed – and it’s said that the takings must be going to the poor."
"Who says that?"
"Well, no one will say exactly, of course—"
"Because you are too gentle in your interrogations," the sheriff snapped. He glared at the nervous deputy, then nodded at him to continue.
"Many poor are better fed and clothed, Sir. Some have been able to improve their huts. But the real worry, Sir, is that this seems to be no ordinary outlaw," the deputy began to sweat. "Those who were robbed say he shot arrows past them with a skill that seemed inhu…impossible. It’s said too that a body was found. It bore the bite on its neck from a wild animal, and seemed to be completely drained of blood."
The sheriff’s eyebrows had drawn together so that they resembled a hedgerow.
"I suppose no one is able to describe the outlaw?"
The deputy fought to control the trembling of his jaw.
"A gentleman’s daughter, Marian, claims to have seen him. She was out alone one night – doing what, she refused to say – and saw a man with a bow and arrows on his back, strolling by the river and singing. A nightingale sang back and the man laughed. She said he was so bald, he looked like the moon itself but that his…his eyes were glowing red and he had…fangs."
The sheriff’s face relaxed, and he laughed.
"It is a joke after all. You would think a grown woman who is robbing from her own class would make up a better story than that. Well, I shall have to have a chat with this Marian."
Outside the high window, Mors, sprawled on the ledge, chuckled. He knew he’d smelled an intrepid young woman following him. He was looking forward to meeting Marian as well.
Mors had traveled down to London to see King John sign the Magna Carta. He came through Nottingham on his way home and observed with ironic amusement that the worst sort of feudalism was still thriving here. Why a mere sheriff should wield such power was strange, but the fact that he used his power to crush so many others was something with which Mors was all too familiar. Being accustomed to the prosperous and liberal York, he was disgusted by the condition of the poor in Nottingham. So he decided to make some changes.
Any vampire or vampire hunter who knew of Mors – and there were few who didn’t – knew that he prized his fun. Taking up a bow and arrows to shake down those whose wealth was ridiculous in order to give the poor the chance at three meals a day was terrific fun. He liked knowing the rich were frightened, but he didn’t like that they were quickly becoming less inclined to be out after dark.
That’s the trouble with fantastic success. It’s always a double-edged sword.
Swords. He loved swords. But he also liked changing things up, and arrows made a gorgeous sound, whizzing through the air before landing smack on their target. Very attention-grabbing. The sound of a horse being urged on far too hard caught his own attention. He sprinted off after it. Horses were powerful runners, but Mors was a millennial vampire. He was soon skipping along beside the horse, pleasing neither horse nor rider.
"You’re ruining this marvelous animal, you know that, don’t you?" Mors scolded.
The rider raised his sword and made a poor attempt to relieve Mors of his head.
"Oh now, really, is that the best you can do? Such amateurs here," Mors sighed. "Care to try again?"
The rider did, several times, but only earned more mockery.
They barreled on towards a handsome stone house – the horse scurrying for the comfort of its barn, the rider screaming, "It’s the outlaw, kill him!" Which only served to confuse, rather than rouse, the servants. One brave man did race around the corner, brandishing a bow and arrow. Mors whipped out his own weapon and shot before the man could let loose – Mors’s arrow snapped the man’s in half and just missed taking off his hand as well.
The rider, sweating heavily in his expensive linens, gaped.
"What manner of man are you?" he asked.
"Let’s not fuss about technicalities," Mors answered. "We’ll all be happier if you just hand over your purse and get it over with."
No further inducement was needed.
"Lovely, thank you. Now, go on in – it’s not safe to be out after dark, you know!"
Again, there was no argument. The barn doors were shut behind the horse and servants, and the rider scurried inside the house.
Mors grinned…and did not stop doing so, even when he felt the tip of a blade prodding the back of his neck.
"Turn around, Outlaw, and remove your hood so I may see your face," came a woman’s deep, calm voice.
"I shall, but it’s rather different from the face you weren’t supposed to see, Maid Marian," Mors told her.
She stared, taking in the high cheekbones, Roman nose, and the eyes that, even by moonlight, she could see were a North Sea green. One side of his mouth curved upwards in a crooked smile that made her flinch. He smiled more broadly then, showing her his perfectly human teeth.
"I don’t understand," she whispered.
"The other face only comes out for special occasions," Mors explained. "I am going to deliver your father’s money to those who need it. Would you care to join me?"
She surprised herself by saying yes.
The laborer’s huts were all shut for the night, but Mors whistled a tune that, to Marian’s trained ear, sounded older than anything even the grandest court musician knew. One by one, people came out of each house – most wearing little more than rags – and accepted the coins with an open-hearted gratitude that made Marian want to weep.
"Why are you doing this?" she asked.
"Just for fun, really," Mors smiled. "And because it’s making everyone whose duty it is to see the poor did better than this very, very nervous."
He cupped her cheek, covering the blush.
"I’m not blaming you. Women are hardly in any position to dictate decent law."
She reached up her hand to stroke his before she realized what she was doing, then pulled away from him.
"But why? Why should a monster…" she blushed again.
"’Monster’? That’s a touch extreme, my dear. But as to why a vampire should behave like a human? Well, as they say, ‘if the face fits.’ They don’t say that, of course, only I do. A trivial detail."
A tentative smile forced its way onto Marian’s face.
"That’s better," Mors complimented her. Then he tangled his fingers in her hair, drawing her into his arms for a long kiss.
"And that is better yet."
Mors awoke the next evening to the smell of impending chaos swirling around him like a haze. He was on his feet at once, the bow and arrows strapped around him, a dagger in his boot, and his own sharp talons popping out of his fingernails, tapping their eagerness against his thigh.
He did not bother to knock, but simply clambered up the castle wall to the great hall where the sheriff was interrogating Marian. Her eyes flicked towards Mors once but her face stayed otherwise impassive.
"You will tell me where to find that beast, you know that, don’t you girl?" the sheriff informed Marian with a vinegary smile.
Marian arched a brow.
"Oh, I will most certainly tell you where to go."
Mors let loose an arrow as well as a laugh – the tip dove through the sheriff’s hat and landed in the eye of a portrait of King John on the other end of the long room.
The sheriff whirled to see Mors lounging outside the window. Mors gave the furious man a cheerful wave.
"Good evening, Sheriff! Still exerting yourself to the fullest, I see."
"You miserable rodent!" the sheriff bellowed. "Why don’t you come in here and challenge me like a man?"
"As invitations go, that one is lacking in charm. But still effective," Mors noted, as he swung inside. "As to the ‘man’ aspect, well, I’m afraid I might have to disappoint you."
The sheriff smiled.
"At least you acknowledge you are not my social equal. Well done."
"Oh thank you. And no, I am not your equal," Mors agreed, fixing cold eyes on the sheriff. "I’m your better."
The sheriff snatched two swords from the wall with such force, their hooks clattered to the floor. He glared at Mors.
"You may think as well of yourself as you like, but that won’t keep you alive."
"Now that is some very good advice," Mors complimented him.
For a few minutes, Mors amused himself dodging the sheriff’s swords, watching the man’s face grow more and more red.
"Mors, stop showing off!" Marion laughed.
"Very good, my lady," said Mors, and helped himself to the sheriff’s swords before the man could blink. "Not that I need these, I just like them. I could also use these…" Mors popped out all ten talons, keeping the swords loose in his hands. "…or indeed, these," and his fangs slid down into a beastly smile.
The sheriff backed away, his face whiter than mist.
"So it is true. It’s true."
He snatched a dusty cross from inside a bench and brandished it.
"No," Mors said in a note of apology. "I’m afraid I’m a bit too old for that."
"How, how can it be you haven’t killed everyone?" the sheriff demanded. "What game is this, to steal from the rich and give the money to the poor?"
"When you’ve lived as long as I have, you learn that an even distribution of wealth makes for a healthier society," Mors shrugged. "It would have been someone else, if not me. Although you might try a reasonable system of taxation in future. Just a thought."
The sheriff didn’t hear a word.
"There was a body found! You’re not just helping the poor, you’re eating them!"
"In point of fact, that was a local vampire hunter. What can I say, he provided better nourishment than your lot ever could."
With that, he swooped down over the man. Not a few minutes later, Mors and Marian were helping themselves to the sheriff’s horses, while the dismembered sheriff lay in a widening pool of his own blood.
Mors and Marian lay in a clearing in Sherwood Forest.
"When word gets out of the sheriff’s murder, the King’s men will come," Marian mused.
"No doubt. But they won’t be able to put the sheriff together again," said Mors.
"You’ll have to go away, won’t you?" she asked, running a finger around the silky skin of his head.
"I always do," he told her. "But not just yet."
When a vital member of the British millennials’ mission goes missing after an intense firefight with Nazi-supported vampire hunters, Mors, the mission’s powerful leader, vows to discover the truth behind his disappearance. The perilous search takes Mors from Berlin to his own ancient stomping grounds – Rome.
Mors was once one of the Roman Republic’s greatest generals – until his rebirth as a vampire under unprecedented circumstances – and when he sees Italy under Fascism, he forms a new mission: to return the country to a true republic, and perhaps guide its people into the light himself.
But it will take collaboration with human partisans to achieve his new dream, a dangerous alliance that most vampires would never attempt, made even more unstable by his growing love for the partisans’ beautiful and brave organizer, Giulia. As the Allies prepare to invade Italy, and hunters and Nazi-collaborators start to encircle him, Mors’s quest for vengeance, intense passion, and hunger for power force him to confront the demons of both his past and present. A very different war is about to begin…
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Sarah Jane Stratford was born in the Garden State and spent her formative years in the City of Angels, where she developed a lifelong love of theatre.
Sarah Jane earned a master’s degree in medieval history at the University of York in England, where she wrote a thesis about women in the manorial court system which gave her a new appreciation for the modern era. She fell in love with the UK and tried to stay, but through a comedy of mishaps, ended up back in Los Angeles, where she spent several years writing screenplays. One of her favorites,The Tale of the Torturer’s Daughter, placed high in several contests and got her an agent. A lively comedy about medieval torture, romance, and good hair, it was a tonal mix of The Princess Bride and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
When Sarah Jane relocated to New York City, she shifted her writing focus from Hollywood-centric screenplays to long-form fiction and stage plays. Vampires and historical fiction had been long-term interests of hers, but the characters in The Midnight Guardian came fully formed of their own accord. Brigit, Eamon, Mors, and the other heroic bloodsuckers knew who they were and what they wanted, and they were pretty relentless about making it happen. Sarah Jane allowed for further outside influence – certain (fictional and non) souls, in particular – but for the most part, writing The Midnight Guardian was a very immediate experience.
Want to read more by Sarah-Jane?