Rev. Jan's Fiction Extravaganza

Requiem for a Vampire: Chapter 8

I was pulled from this nothingness by the presence of one who was not immortal. I could feel her by me even in the emptiness -- and it reminded me sharply that my veins were nearly empty as well. For the first time -- I barely know how I knew to do it then -- I reached out with my mind, and saw her without opening my eyes.

She stood behind the door, Lucifer at her side, protective and yet somewhat menacing as well; she raised her hand to knock. With a touch of my nonexistent hand -- could I control matter as well as see it? but there was no time for this incredulousity -- the door opened, and I welcomed her in her mind. And to Lucifer, "You have brought one who is not poisoned? I thank you, my friend, though she will not --" but he merely smiled, and gave the girl a light push. She looked back, hesitant to approach me; I looked through her eyes, and saw myself on the bed, hands folded across my bare chest in a gesture like that of a corpse.

This served only to frighten her more, I knew, and so I opened my eyes and smiled at her, gently, slowly. She relaxed slightly -- I felt her pulse decrease -- and walked a little faster towards me. She sat down on the bed beside me then; I could feel the shiver of her legs even as she took my hand.

"What is your name, bold one?" I murmured, sitting up.

"Renée, my lord," she said in a child's voice. But the way she held my hand was not the way of a child by any means; nor was the way she allowed me to kiss her. When we paused -- I think we paused -- I gave her my names as well, and my age; neither shocked her. She was obviously familiar with our kind; I looked up, expecting to see Lucifer about, but he was gone.

She smiled timidly. "I know why I was brought here, Orpheus; you needn't wait if your need is great." Her words were brave -- and I could detect no fear; she was familiar with our hunger as well, it seemed. But her courage was not the same as Anastasia's; she was not resigned to death; rather, she knew she would live long if she served Lucifer well. She did not seek the thrill of near-death; she sought the value of love, for she well knew that we could not help but love those who came so willingly, not be sacrificed but to be savoured.

And so I took her in my arms, the silk of her simple gown soft under my fingers. Rather than melt, as her sex was wont to do in such a position, I felt her muscles tense a moment before she pulled me closer and lay back on the bed. Her eyes were half-closed; her dress had fallen open to reveal her legs, the paleness of her thighs... she opened it further then; it was more a robe than a gown, and she wore nothing beneath it. I may have moaned then, for she smiled slightly, and arched her neck back.

She was so human, the seduction so complete that I did not take her blood at once but paused merely to look at her. And I knew then what she wanted before I took her; I knew that I wanted it as well...

The burning in my veins was nothing next to the concupiscence she felt, that she almost projected. I slipped into her mind as well as her body, and was fairly overwhelmed; her thoughts ran through me; her desire inflamed me. And though I'd had no intention of doing so, I found myself caressing her throat, feeling the thrust of her heartbeats. I could not keep the hunger at bay; I bit into the vein below my tongue. And I nearly lost control tasting her blood, the aphrodisiac that flowed through it striking me as well. And we were as close as anyone could be, joined in body, mind, and blood; there was no separation between us, and her pleasure became mine, our passion spent in double measure, the agony of my theft lost in it all.

I did not know how much time had passed until Lucifer was there, suddenly standing in the doorway. "Orpheus," he called to my mind, as though out of the wind, "They will be looking for you soon: it is nearly sunset. And Renée -- she should not be seen here." Of course! If she was not one of their pathetic addicts, she must be from outside, and they would not like that. Lucifer had taken great risk in bringing her to me; much as I now wished she might stay, our time was over.

She yawned, stretched languidly -- evoking a stab of that human want in me -- and sat up -- perhaps too quickly, for next I knew she had collapsed. She bled from the vein in her neck, but it had not the force of moments ago; now it was slow, seeping rather than spurting, and that, for a human, means always that death is near.

Lucifer was by her side almost before I had felt her plight. "Damn it!" I heard him mutter, and then he pulled her closer, arms around her waist. In an instant his mouth was fastened on her throat, but he took nothing; he merely hoped to heal her. As he stood with her, he spoke to me inside; his words, even through thought, were barely controlled, harsh, seething with bitter anger that was not directed wholly at me.

"Orpheus, Orpheus, she will die now, do you see? I have known her for three years, since I first took her when she was sixteen; she was to me as Marcella was to you -- and I know what that means to you, I know what this one was as well... you did not mean to harm her -- none of us ever do -- but you took too much too soon, and now she will die. Or she will be changed, and for the first time I do not know which she would choose, all I can think is that she must not be found; Mephistopheles would take her from me and that is the last that I want..."

Even as he spoke the door was opened; with the slow patience of the Undead, Mephistopheles stepped into the room, his features so fine and cold I might have thought he had been painted that way. And he said nothing at seeing the pair; he closed the door behind him, leaning against it though he certainly had no need of support. I felt my heart clench at his presence; what had he seen? For though he had not been with us, I had not doubt that he did not need his eyes to see.

"What have we here?" he said finally, his voice casual and urbane. "Lucifer and Orpheus and... ah! Renée. The Reborn -- but will she be, Lucifer? Would you bring her light? And Orpheus -- but you know I need not ask your part in this. Like the evil my name represents, I am everywhere..."

But now, as though in answer to his queries, Lucifer pushed Renée back, into my arms -- and slashed open the vein in his wrist, lifting it quickly to her mouth. She groaned, her eyes opening slightly, and let the vampire blood spill into her. And I held her tightly, her naked form so cold against mine that I thought surely even the immortal serum could not save her.

But it did. As Mephistopheles watched -- and now he appeared amused, damn him! -- Renée sucked harder, shivering convulsively but unable to let go of his wrist, so powerful was the lure that held her. At last Lucifer knelt next to her, whispered something into her ear; she moaned and released him -- whereupon she collapsed again. It was Mephistopheles who caught her as she fell from us, and for a moment I was struck by the concern written on his face. But then he smiled, a harsh, acid smile that struck me like an arrow sent straight to the heart.

He opened his mouth to speak -- but Lucifer did not give him the chance. "You fool," he hissed, rising quickly, his wrath so scarcely veiled that I felt it would burst from him if Mephistopheles merely breathed. "Don't you know love anymore? When was the last time you felt love -- real, honest love -- for a woman? When you felt that you could die for her -- or make her immortal so she could stay with you? If you have ever felt it, your capacity is gone now, I know it is by the look in your eyes, the way you walk. Damn it, Vladimir, you should die for it, you should have died long ago with the filth you sired. How can you live with that inhuman hate inside you? You should die!"

Lucifer sprang forward at him, his mouth distorted in a savage snarl, hands clenched like claws. But Mephistopheles -- Vladimir -- had a sword, and he had Renée. To my astonishment he let Renée fall to the floor as he saw Lucifer come at him; he did not draw the sword. And he leapt as well -- towards the door, already opened by his mental command. The two of them crashed out into the great hall; the ferocity of their thoughts blinded me.

The rest was a blur; in the panic that took most of us I swept Renée off the floor into my arms, my only thought that Lucifer must be protected. But I knew I could not do it alone, not in a house where the odds were so clearly against me, against Julia...

Lucifer had snatched a rapier from the wall, and forced Mephistopheles into a corner; only the meter of his wrath sustained him, for Renée had weakened him terribly; I knew: I could feel his pain as he forced his body to fight. The other vampires had come from sleep and stood as uncomprehending as I, watching their battle. Only one had the courage to move; Wolfgang shouted something to them in Russian, to no avail; he jumped from the floor above down to them, taking the blades of both their swords in his hands and holding them, forcing the two to face each other as men and not as beasts.

When they had calmed somewhat, their breathing still heavy and abrupt, Wolfgang pulled the swords from them completely, threw them distastefully to the floor beside him, and glared at each one in turn. "How can you do this?" he growled. "You know we all need you both; even without us, you know that there is little justification for such bloodshed -- though there has not yet been any. But if you must fight each other -- and not the mortals who would kill you just as quickly -- can you not at least do it by convention -- the Revenant's Duel? Or let it go completely? We value you both as teachers and friends; my God, we need you both; we cannot lose either or we will perish."

But he did the unthinkable: shaking his head against the battle he had no right to stop, he gave them back their weapons, holding them distainfully until their owners snatched them away. "I wash my hands of this," he said, turning away.

And I swear by God that they would have started again, even then, if Julia had not stepped between them. She pushed delicately past the raised blades, stood betwixt the two for a moment. And then she surprised me even more.

She took Mephistopheles' sword hand, gently forcing him to drop the weapon. And then, slowly, without hesitation, she circled her arms around his waist, resting her head on his chest. I watched with dismay as he pressed his lips to her forehead, holding her closer. I would have cried out if I had dared, but I felt the inner eyes of too many upon me; I could not let it go. How could she do this to me, so openly and cruelly betraying me to the enemy I did not yet understand? But Lucifer looked up at me, shaking his head.

In an instant less than the time it takes to breathe, he was standing next to me, as I watched Julia -- Eurydice in fact and deed -- and Mephistopheles leave the great hall. Lucifer placed his hand on mine (internal speech is enhanced by touch) and whispered, "He has her in thrall; this tryst is not by her choice." I could not speak, already numbed by too many shocks, but he continued.

"Alexandrei, he wants her, and if this is the only way he can have her, it is the way he will do it."

"Do what?" I muttered, seeing the two enter one of the smaller rooms. "What could he do now?"

"What would you do with the woman you most desired -- keeping in mind that love does not enter it at all? Take that and make it more cruel, more sadistic, and more deliberately painful -- and that is what he will do to her. What you do not -- and cannot -- understand is that he wants her completely, without thought to her needs. He holds her in control now; she has no choice but to follow him, to do what he wants or says. It does not matter that she wants none of it, that without his force she would not submit; it ceased to matter for him hundreds of years ago.

"Alexandrei, you do not know what fear is until someone tries to take your very soul -- and this is what he wishes to do. God knows he has done it before -- to mortal women, hundreds of them in his time -- but Julia is different. Since he began this game -- and it is all a game to him -- he has wanted someone as young as he is old, a vampire who was naïve without innocence, and Julia is that. Seduction is a game to him; in the centuries he has lived, he has done everything ten times over -- but seduction is always new -- and never a challenge. I have known him for as long as I can remember, and in that time, I have seen the best and worst of what he is capable of doing. This game is the worst; he does not consider the status of the victim, or even her thoughts, and always he kills her in the end. For the thousands he has seduced, he has never known death.

"She is the only one he cannot have, not without dying himself -- but he won't admit to that. And so he tries to seduce Her with the deaths he has caused. But Alexandrei, he does not know what She really is, and it maddens him! Everything in his life is a game but this, none of it matters if he can have Her, seduce her as he has so many others.

"And you are in danger, my friend; he has been following you since your association with Nikolai; he knows that you have been with Her, and that you rejected Her. In his centuries, he has learned to mask every emotion that comes; he would never let you know of the envy he feels for you, thinking that you have had Her and he has not. Julia is his method of revenge: you cannot prove that it is against her will, not until he releases her, and so it will hurt you all the more."

Here he paused, for Renée had stirred at last. "Amadeus..." she murmured. Lucifer took her from me immediately, cradling her in his arms like the child she was. He looked at me once, and smiled; he said softly, "Now I would suggest that you find something to take your mind from Julia; no matter what he does to her, you cannot stop it yet." And then he was gone; I was alone.

It was midnight, only midnight; no matter the aching darkness in me there were still many hours to come before Mephistopheles would release her, I knew. I had no power against him, I knew that as well. I hated him with a passion I had not felt since Constance was killed, and for much the same reasons, and yet there was nothing any of us could do to stop him. I cursed aloud, almost wishing I had some god to pray to, that she would not be harmed; I knew at the same moment that there was no one to hear me.

What else could I do? I tried to heed Lucifer's advice; I went to the mirrored room and took my violin from its case, releasing all the hate through the music. It was nothing I had heard before, merely something I felt was necessary, but oh! if Haydn had heard me, if anyone had heard it, it would have been saved; the notes flew from the strings sometimes faster than my mind could let them go but they came nonetheless, and I could not remember them when they were gone! It was as though they had destroyed themselves as they dissapated into the air; not even their echoes remained. For aeons it came, this music, and then it was utterly gone.

I stood in the centre of the room, the violin and the bow hanging loosely from my hands; the ache in my arms was but a dull reminder of the fact that I had lost them both, my love and my music. I put the instrument away in silence, feeling only the hum of inhuman conversations and thoughts in my mind; when next I allowed myself to look, it was three in the morning -- though morning would not show itself for hours.

I went quietly from the music room, pausing only once before the door Julia and Mephistopheles had entered. I could hear nothing, nor feel anything but a brief spasm of pain when I left it; I hoped again he would not hurt her irrevocably; would she be the same when she returned as she was when she had gone? I prayed to whoever might listen that she would be; I loved her too much to let her change so.

It was nearly dawn when I heard her light steps outside; without moving from the writing-desk at which I sat, I opened to door to her; she staggered in like one perilously near death. And she was.

"Julia!" I leaped from the chair to her side, guided her to the bed. She collapsed onto it; apparently the strength which had kept her that long was gone, and with it, her will.

"Alexandrei," she whispered, after an eternity of silence. "Alexandrei, do not let me forget you, no matter what he does. If you need me as much as I need you, we have much to lose by this; he knows it. He did nothing to hurt me so much this time, but I do not know what he has for me tomorrow; I do not wish to think of it. You mustn't let me forget, my love, what it was like for us, or I do not think I will survive this."

She lay on the bed curled up like a kitten -- one that has been taken from its home and abandoned. I could say nothing; how does one console the love that one has betrayed? I had made her Eurydice, that I must not forget; anything she suffered at Mephistopheles' hand was partially due to my ignorance. But the only vampires I had known before -- though they were irrational, they had never been so vindictive, so forceful in their revenge for a deed I had to do or sacrifice my integrity, what was left of it.

I could feel her pain when I lay next to her, wrapping my arms tightly around her, over the bruises that would no doubt be gone by morning. She struggled to control her tears, I know; she had been violated as only a vampire can be; not once but many times had he thrust his way into her mind; of this there were no physical traces; only the hurt inside her remained. But it was enough. I could scarce imagine the act; I would not ask her to remember it. I soothed her as best I could, singing to her the little songs she had heard as a child; I stayed beside her well into morning, when both of us fell into an exhausted, restless sleep.

There was no call for us on the next night. I awoke when I felt Renée near me -- she took me out of the waking dream that had swallowed me. "Orpheus," she whispered. "They mean to take Julia from you again, Mephistopheles and... another, who arrived at sunset. She is one I have not seen before, but she seems to know them all, even Iphigenia and Sebastian. Lucifer would not tell me who she was, he said only that you and Julia should be warned."

At the mention of Sebastian's name I knew immediately who had come; if she was here, there would be no sanctuary. Julia knew it as well; she snapped awake, asking no questions of Renée's involvement, but the fear did not leave her eyes. "It is Deirdre?" she murmured. Though they had never met, Julia knew her as well as I, through the memories I had given her, and the words I have written. Now I wondered how much Mephistopheles had taken in his rape of her mind; enough that he knew how Deirdre and I had parted?

But there was no time for speculation. Renée jerked away from me, pulled by some unseen force; she cried out and then was silent as she fell at the feet of the vampire who had burst into the room. Mephistopheles stood before us all; he stepped over Renée, and Deirdre appeared behind him. Gone was the Baroque finery she had worn the last time; now she was clothed in black, a cloak spread across her shoulders, tights and breeches contrasting violently with the dark lace at the throat of her blouse. But her hair was longer than before, black as night, and she wore a sword at her waist. And her eyes...

Her eyes were enthralling, as deep and yielding as the way to Hell; smouldering and sensuous and yet so very cold; they seemed to freeze as they hit me, and the soul that lay beyond them opened to force the memories through. She showed me a room, unlit but for the pure whiteness of the bed that stood before us; she showed me the shape of one I had loved so dearly, shrunken into a corner, unwilling to face us; she showed me the image of a battlefield of death, multitudes of innocents sprawled about it, bleeding from pin-prick wounds; she showed me the face of the one whose form she had taken, tranquil at last in its final repose. And She showed me Her soul, and I shuddered with the knowledge of who She truly was, and cried out to no one that She would have me at last.

For no one could hear me; in the instant that our contact lasted, I was shut off from the rest of them; no doubt they took my silence to be remembrance. Oh, it was indeed, but of the most horrifying sort; I shiver, imagining it now. But Julia did not understand -- I barely did myself; she touched me tentatively, seeking entrance to my mind; I was not free to give it. I felt her shocked pain, and then she did what had been done to her: she forced her way in.

The flame of intrusion, raw and biting, was not mine, but that of my anathema. She flinched as though struck, for a moment withdrawing Her serpentine claws from my soul; it was all I needed. Gathering the massive fury I felt for Her, and the likeness She had taken -- irrational as it may have been -- I lashed out at Her being with power I had only recently discovered. Her form distorted briefly in my perception, before She had the chance to react; then Her eyes darkened further; power flashed within them --

And Mephistopheles stepped between us. He said nothing, but glared at me and then at the one who called herself Deirdre, and the look in his eyes told me that he knew, if not who She was, at least the fact that She was not the one he had created so many years ago. But his centuries had taught him well; She did not know that he had discovered it. Rather, She composed Her stolen features into a little smile, as though the gesture would erase the wrath. They did not; Mephistopheles scowled, staring into the orbs that cried out so.

At that moment I wished more than anything that I could know which of them was older, which held greater strength; Mephistopheles was powerful indeed, but how would he stand up against Her -- if he would do even that. If She was the one he had wanted for so long -- whether She was Her own myth, whether She was real, or not -- he had no reason to fight Her; rather, he would seek to have Her, not to kill Her. But if She still wanted me...

I'll never know.

Mephistopheles looked at both of us again, pausing on me, as though to read my thoughts -- and I have no doubt that he did. If so, he realized immediately what She was, for in the next instant we all heard his frenzied cry to surround Her with our power: even She could not stand us all. He leaped for Her throat, and I heard Her hiss slightly, like the beginning of a moan, before it was cut off by the sound of his lips against Her neck. Though I was simply too shocked to aid the others in the attack, I could feel the tension of their minds around me, pushing Her back from any course of escape.

And I? I was too revolted to participate, once the surprise had faded; to take even this from Her was degradation -- for She wanted it! She had not fought; not once had She struggled to defeat the vampires around Her; I would have felt it if She had. In the back of my head -- and I know I was the only one She sent it to -- She moaned and whispered in an empty voice that She only wished that I would do it and not Mephistopheles.

I ached to be rid of Her, to run as far and as fast as I could away from the sight of Her, the sounds of Her emotionless moans; I knew that if She looked at me even once more I would have to die or worse, to save my sanity from Her lifeless eyes. And yet even now the tremulous beats of Her heart shocked the action from me; every word and deed I would have had for Her was lost in the pulsing, throbbing strength of it.

And Mephistopheles -- he was taken as well. His hands were as white as She was cold, his fingers clenched on Her so tightly that their very veins seemed alive, convulsing with the same heartbeat that would kill them both. In this contest of undead wills, there would be no winner, not if they chose to fight on equal ground -- and they had no other way in which to do so.

It was then I realized that Mephistopheles had never told us -- or anyone -- of the one who had brought about his Change. I shuddered to think that it was She -- and yet, who else could do it? Lucifer said that he had never known Her, but thirteen centuries in the past, She could not have been what She was now. Was it only now that he could claim Her, to take once again what She had given him then? Every life is the same -- the conflict of origin will never be resolved, least of all ours.

And then there was a sound unlike one I have ever heard before or since, a cry so inhuman that the gods themselves could not have withstood it. Her eyes were opened wide -- no longer blank, but full of mortal fear -- and the heartbeats that had mesmerized us so with their power became weak and erratic, a nightmare to hear. Death incarnate was dying, pulled into the abyss of a hell of Her own making -- and now She fought.

The physical scream was nothing next to the horror that Her mind wrought. A scream was simple to deflect; this torture could not be avoided. The combined power of two-score of us could not stop it; it was pure anguish, hard, resonating fear, that projected itself into the very souls of those who surrounded Her. There was no sound from us; the pain was too well-made to be released by mere sound. It was paralyzing, penetrating, all-encompassing; She was gone before it ended, escaped before She dared release us.

No one had expected this; there were no reactions. Mephistopheles and I alone were able to comprehend it; of those present, only we had known Her so long and so well. For now I had no doubts that they were connected, joined forever in some remote moment in the past. When, I could not be sure, could never be sure until he told me -- as of course he would. He was immortal, but not without the need to share himself.

But only I knew why She had come now. I had not seen Her since the first time Julia killed; it seemed so long ago. But if She was truly Death, She did not need to be present at the passing of a mortal, for though I had taken many in the months following our last brief meeting, I had not seen Her again, nor had Julia. Was She real, or merely one of us? Ah, doubt! Suspicion is thine only friend!

And hope, thine only counter. That night the Citadel's inhabitants gathered in the theatre for solace, for the reassuring words that someone had to give us. In fact, words were few, but hope persisted. After what we had been through, together, there was little inner strife: even Lucifer and Mephistopheles talked quietly; those who had been enemies forgot enmity for a time.

The theatre had been built adjoining the rest of the structure; when music was played within it echoed throughout the halls. The stage was in fantastic proportions, its giant, arched ceiling encompassing the auditorium as well, so that the sounds of voice and instrument carried majestically around whoever might listen.

Tonight, we were the only listeners when Mephistopheles stood to speak. "I trust I need not reiterate tonight's events?" he began, strolling to the centre of the stage. There were nods of agreement all around; he continued. "Some of you know this creature, this immortal woman who calls Herself Death. Some of you, I'm sure, have known Her from your first moments of undeath; perhaps for others Her presence is more recent. But I have known Her for thirteen centuries and more, since the days before She took up this morbid mantle.

"When I met her first, Latin was my language, though I lived in France -- Gaul, if you will. I lived the life of the upper class, surrounded by what then was opulence; it would not be for long. Our Empire was falling, and with it, the civilization I had known for my entire existence; but the Gauls would no longer be oppressed, and even the Romans themselves had grown dissatisfied with our rule. I was mortal then. She was not.

"I do not know when she had been changed, or by whom. I knew too little then to ask, when I met her first. It was midnight; I was outdoors, walking by myself, thinking about my world and how soon it would fall. Of course, I had not counted on a personal fall as well, but it would come sooner than my civilization's.

"The moon was full, the heavens were quiet, the sky lit up by a canopy of stars that hasn't changed much, even after a millennium. The grass beneath my feet scarcely made a sound -- and then I heard the glistening notes of a kithara. It was hers." He paused, seeking my eyes in the candlelight of the theatre. "When I saw her first she had a beauty so ethereal that for a moment I thought that Venus herself had come to me. Her tunic was pure white, her hair as black as the night, shining with the light of the moon; she played a peasant's air on the kithara.

"Myths were as potent in my youth as they are now, if not more so. For all that I knew, she was a goddess, come to mimic mortality as gods were wont to do. She came closer, and she smiled. It was all the introduction I needed; when she held out Her hands, I took them; I followed her away.

"She told me her name was Perdita, the lost -- though she did not seem lost to me! She led me to a small spring; so deep in the forest it was that I wondered for a moment if I would be able to find my way out alone. But she gave me little time to think; she took both my hands and pulled me closer -- and then into the water with her! She laughed at my surprise; without fanfare she helped me out of my clothes. But the water was warm, and so was she..." He sent us all a picture of that night, their bath suspended in a leafy cloud of trees, the two of them entwined, caught in a stream of Luna's blissful illumination.

"Ah, amore, totam tibi subdo me," he whispered to her, "Ah, love, I give everything to you."

And the vision was torn apart, ripped from us and from him in a single gesture, one that was all too familliar to each of us. Perdita had bitten into his neck, and now straddled his body as she drew substance from him. He did not understand; the myth of the vampire had died out with Greece; all he knew was the pain of her intrusion, and the intense pleasure of his. In an explosion of the two, the illusion vanished; Mephistopheles stood before us, alone, seeming naked though he was richly clothed.

"'Sic itur ad astra,' she said to me next," he continued. "'Thus one goes to the stars.' There was only one word I knew for her, that I had heard long before; it was Lamia, and though it bore little resemblance to the beauty I saw in her, the Lamia was something of a vampire; perhaps it could make itself appealing as well. But she seemed to know what I thought -- of course she did -- and smiled, shaking her head slowly.

"'I am like you, mea carus, but immortal... like the gods,' she said, kissing me. 'What I need is what you can give me -- what you consented to give by your own words. Never take them lightly, Theophilus; words may be what you make of them, but others will hold you to them.' And then with Mercury's speed, she was gone; she left me exhausted and starving for her.

"When the sun rose, it was all I could do to get out of the forest; one of my servants found me soon after, and brought me home. He said later that I had mumbled something about the Lamia -- which I denied fiercely when I recovered, saying instead that I had merely lost my way. Few members of my household believed me -- least of all my wife.

"The next night I stayed safely -- or so I thought -- indoors. But the place was not enough; when Lysandra was asleep, who should step into our room but Perdita. Only this time she was silent, dressed in black, and I went with her without speech. We did not go so far, nor did she find it necessary to bleed me. Instead, she told me of her life, much as all of you have told me, and I listened, astonished. She did not mention who had changed her so, rather evading the question with a shrug, and a kiss that could make any man forget his thoughts. She had had many years to perfect that device!

"I asked her when I would see her again before we parted; I told her of Lysandra and her suspicions. She only smiled; 'Soon enough' was all she would say. I crept into bed shortly after sunrise; no one but Lysandra saw me. I told her it was -- if you'll pardon the reference -- a call of nature; it was obvious she didn't believe me, but she said nothing. She was a good wife to the end.

"I did not see Perdita for a fortnight, during which time the situation back in Rome worsened to the brink of collapse. How like my own life it was! Because when Perdita came back, found me walking again at midnight... she was almost starved, appearing as we do without blood. She had not taken blood even once during the time we were parted; her will, against the urgency of the need that called her, was my only protector.

"Even so, she allowed me only a few hasty kisses before the inevitable bite; this time, self-control was not enough. I lost consciousness before she was finished; when I awoke again from the blackness of near-death, her blood was hot on my lips. Before I knew what I was doing, I pulled her closer, and as though by instinct, I fastened my mouth on the vein that bled for me, pulled at it with as much strength as she had. I did not hear her sobs until it was over, after she pushed me away, pale and shivering in the darkness of the new moon.

"How could I have understood it, what we had done? She had told me nothing of her kind -- our kind, though I did not know it yet -- and nothing of the fact that she had never killed a man for blood, nor committed one to immortality. And in saving me that night -- by avoiding the first and embracing the second -- she violated the oath that she had made many years before, when she made the choice of immortality.

"That much she let me know while we lay together in the grass, bound by a force much greater than love. She would allow me little else, though; she was changed as much as I, probably more. In breaking the oath, denying the trust that her very creator had granted her on the night he broke it himself, she lost her soul. Perhaps not in reality, but reality is too often forgotten in desperation; in her mind, there was only one possibility, that when she died, Hell was her destination. Perhaps she was right; perhaps that is why she is so afraid to die.

"And perhaps that is why She has become Death. On that night, the night She gave up her soul, She gave up Perdita and took on Death. I did not go home at sunrise, instead following Her to Her underground sanctuary, and when I awoke later that day, near sunset, She was gone. I followed Her tracks -- it was not hard to do, with the senses She had bequeathed me -- and then I saw where they led.

"I found her in my room, huddled over my bed; when I came closer I saw that the bed was not empty. On it lay my wife... in the beginnings of rigor mortis... She was dead by the hand of the one who had given me immortality, her fate determined the night before by the breaking of an oath, as well as the fates of so many afterwards..." He stopped for a moment, as though unable to speak; he pressed the palm of his hand to his eyes and sighed deeply.

"I am the first and last vampire to be created by Her, the only mortal for whom She broke Her vows. Though She calls Herself Death, She has not taken a life directly since that night, thirteen centuries ago. I believe She lives as a scavenger -- and an avenger. You have all known Her in this form, have you not? Sometimes no mortal has died and still She comes, to take vengeance on all of you for what She is, for what we created that night.

"Perhaps this is Her penance, for certainly She has no joy in this existence. I have tried thousands of times to contact Her, but She never came to me again after that night, not until tonight -- and it is only egotism that lets me think She came to me." He gazed at me, unblinking; it was I who looked away first, uncomfortable in the implication of his stare.

He continued, sotto voce. "I have told no one of this in the thirteen hundred years that I have lived. I tell you now only because all of you have been affected by it, because all of you saw the power between us. I have sired dozens of you, and you have done the same -- and the sins of the father shall be visited upon his sons, for generations to come...

"You are those generations. And now you know the sins. It is up to you to remember them, to allow those whose love you share to know them as well -- when the time comes. She was lost in name, and now She is lost in fact. Don't let it happen to you as well..." He left the stage and walked out alone.

It was silent for a long while afterwards; all speech was internal, all thoughts unshared. Slowly, the audience dispersed, going to their respective niches in search of further comfort. And for me? Music alone could give it.

And so Julia, Lucifer, and I went to the mirrored room; I provided the score, a movement from my requiem. We noticed Mephistopheles only after it was over, though he had been there from its opening strains. He was as stoic as before, but now his eyes betrayed the sentiment within him.

He stepped into the room almost cautiously, coming to me with an odd expression on his face. "May I?" he whispered, indicating the cello that I had played. I gave it to him without a word, and watched as he pulled it closer, holding it carefully, reverently. And then he closed his eyes and began to play.

It struck me at first that this was something he should not have known; I did not realize until some moments later that what he played, I had written. He gave it new life, an interpretation I had not seen before; he captured the sorrow as no other had, forcing all of us to see it as it was meant to be. When I wrote it, I had imagined Marcella playing it, the phrases feminine and quiet, the notes verging on the new Classicism but Baroque in fact. Mephistopheles did not see it that way. Each note was there because it had to be, and played with such definition that its importance became immediately obvious, almost overpowering -- until the next note. I could not bring myself to move while he played it for fear that something would be missed, that one of the tones that I had written -- that he gave life to -- would fall unnoticed.

"Theophilus," I said when he was finished, simply, silently. He nodded once, returned the cello to me. And then he was gone.

"He was a good man once," said Lucifer, bowing his head, staring at the violin he held. "I think he would like to be again. If She would give him the chance... if he could forget that he was the exception... if he would learn that Her deeds are out of his control... then I think he would find it in himself to let Her go. He still loves Her, as much as life itself; he must see that the love She had for him was surrendered the day She surrendered Herself." He shook his head slowly, looked up at me. "I think that you have shown him the first step, Alexandrei. You remind him of his life, the youth that he once had. And you are, in a way, his son. You are part of Her legacy. For that alone he would love you -- but there are more reasons than that.

"You need not fear him anymore, either of you." Lucifer took Julia's hand, pressing it between his own. "Perhaps he has seen that She is not what he needs. Perhaps now he will realize that life is what he requires, not death..."

But he did not give the alternatives. I didn't mind; I hoped as much as he did that he spoke the truth. Perhaps...

It was an hour before sunrise when we adjourned. And for the first time in my days at the Citadel, I slept soundly, with Julia by my side. It seemed terribly strange, but the one who had been Perdita was the one I had to thank for it. And Mephistopheles -- he chose a different name that morning, becoming Theophilus once again. Perhaps...


I write this sitting at the desk the Citadel provided for me. It is Anno Domini 1764; I have been amongst my kind here for some six months. After the first few days and their chaos, existence slowly found normality; now, when the sun sets, we gather in the Great Hall or in one of the smaller rooms to talk, to listen, and to learn. My own talents have improved greatly since then, as have Julia's. It seems a pleasant life to me, to her as well.

When I remember the first year of my life in this form, it seems almost impossible that it could have been as it was. Certainly, Deirdre taught me everything she knew, but that was nothing compared to what we are learning here. Julia knows more now than I ever did in my earlier years; Theophilus tells me that we will be capable of nearly anything after we leave -- which, I suspect, will not be for some time. Here we are always among friends, with few exceptions, and those who do not like us avoid us. No, I think we will stay for a long while.

My only complaint is with their method of providing sustenance. Vienna offers us so many choices -- and yet my companions continue to use laundanum and ecstasy to lure the mortals to us. True, most of them would die soon without us, for those who come are those without hope, whose only desire is for the drug -- but that does not lessen the guilt when one of them dies. Eros died not long ago in his sleep, after a self-induced overdose.

Mortals know nothing of medicine as we practice it; each dose of the drug we give the addicts is measured carefully, so as to avoid accidental death -- but it doesn't stop them from doing it to themselves. Our alchemists have reduced it to a purer form, one that can be injected directly into the bloodstream, which for some reason makes it more potent -- and more deadly when too much is taken. We already know more than most mortal doctors; we have as many cadavers as we wish for dissection, and many ways to chart the systems of the body -- and the time in which to do so. Now those with a biological bent are exploring the nervous system, with intriguing results -- and the mortals will neither know these things, nor be allowed to know them, for decades to come.

But the addicts who live attract more; all are more than willing to give a little of their blood, a little more of their lives, in exchange for this illicit pleasure. It is their choice, twisted as it is, and it lets me live. I cannot condemn it. Julia, though, after her encounter with Eros, will take none of them; the drug seems to affect her as it does no other. So I drink for both of us; somehow she does not mind the thought that the blood was theirs as long as she does not take it from them; I take as much as I need, and then she takes it from me. If nothing else, it has made us closer.

Still, she will not tell me why it repels her so -- besides the obvious fact that they are slaves to this. I believe it is connected to her past somehow, and to the original incident, when the miniscule amount of the drug that flowed through Eros caused her so much pain. Someday, perhaps, she will trust me enough to let me know it.

For now, we are happy here. Already we have learned how to control the hunger slightly, putting off the inevitable for as much as three days at a time. It is not, of course, without its own pain, but if it will someday spare a life, it must be learned. And the incredible feats that Theophilus demonstrated our first night here -- now they are like child's play. I can move more quietly and quickly than even the wind; it is no hard task to surprise even Lucifer now. "You will be dangerous soon, if you keep this up!" he tells me, laughing. I hope there is no truth behind his words, and yet there is always a note of caution in his voice. I know not whether he fears for me, or for the world. Perhaps neither?

I have contributed my own skills as well. Those who did not know music already have come to me, to be taught composition or to learn an instrument, or simply to listen. And in Vienna, now as in the past, it is never hard to find music somewhere; nights have found us scattered in an audience to hear Haydn, Boccherini, and their hundreds of contemporaries, joined by a force more powerful than words. I learn myself, hearing them and the new melodies of my students; the Baroque has ended. It is time for a new era.


I have become acquainted with Sebastian, the boy who had once been so charmed by Deirdre. But he is no longer a boy; nearly twenty years have passed since the night I met him first, and he is now fifty. That age is nothing amongst our kind, of course, but had he stayed with the living he would be old by now. As it is, he was changed while in his thirties, and so appears older than even Mephistopheles: the age at which we are immortalized is the one we keep for eternity. But his appearance means nothing to us; he is, after all, still a child compared to most of us.

He is as delightful to be with as Marcella was. He has kept the voice that so attracted Deirdre in the first place, and augmented it with the studies of other instruments. And he knows Vivaldi! He was born in 1716, nine years after Marcella; he tells me he grew up hearing the Maestro's music, that he had always wished to meet him, but by the time he was 25, Vivaldi was dead. When I showed him the scores I had saved, he was ecstatic, and has undertaken to learn them all, at least the sonatas and concertos. He laughs when I say it will take him all of eternity; eternity is what he has.

Music he likes to talk about; Deirdre, he does not. When I ask him of their years together -- for she had been slow in her seduction, gradual in telling him of her curse -- he grimaces, tries to change the subject. I think he looks at it with guilt, even shame, though he certainly knows we have all been through it. And yet I know he remembers the malevolent part I played in its end, the night Nikolai and I took her away from him. He says nothing concrete, but when I dare to intrude upon his memories -- this he does not know yet, the ways in which we can observe the psyche so directly -- I find pictures of that night. Through his eyes I see myself bent over Deirdre's body, cruel and violent, taking the blood she had promised to him -- and then his mind strays to the life he might have had with her. Sometimes it is like mine; most often, it is more horrible than that, consummating in his true death.

He has forgiven me for my deeds, then. In fact, I think he was almost satisfied with them; after we made her leave him, he found a mortal woman, married her, stayed with her for fifteen years, until she died in childbirth. He has known more of life than most of us; only five have had human children -- among them, Iphigenia and Lucifer. This is, I think, why Iphigenia is so bitter: she has long outlived her children, a tragedy in any case. And Lucifer? His kin died centuries ago, in a fire that took his wife and his children. He has learned to live with it. I envy him for his chance -- yet I cannot help but think my vampire children have been as fulfilling.

Julia enjoys Sebastian's company as well; she calls him by his chosen name, Hermes, and together they learn music I have known for half a century. I think if she were ever to leave me, he would be her next love; when I am with them I can feel their attraction. They stifle it only for my sake -- which I have never asked of them; I may have to leave for a time, to allow them some respite from me. I don't mind it; jealousy is worthless to the immortal. And I know Julia; she is more than capable of loving us both.

Sebastian has taught me, as well. Young Mozart is rapidly coming of musical age, composing on the new fortepiano, and Sebastian has taken out a subscription to his works. Whenever something new arrives, we two can be found in the music room, puzzling over his enigmatic style. Even at ten his genius is visible; here is a child who deserves immortality! Not yet, but before he is dead, I must see him. There are many of us here who feel the same; if we were to change him -- if he consented, and how could he not, with the promise of all the time he needed to compose? -- he would be welcomed here with open arms.

But still, I do not expect him to come. He will be an old man before he dies, in all likelihood, tired of life and wishing only to die, even with his music. There is a limit to what a mortal can take; most of us have forgotten it, but some remember. Sebastian does; though he enjoys Mozart as much as any of us, he shakes his head when we speak of changing him. "It can never work, friends," he says, though he will not tell us why.

It doesn't matter now. Unless he is stricken by some fever, young Wolfgang will have a long, productive life. It does us no good to postulate his death. It has only the value of fantasy, mental exercise without action, like writing a symphony -- in your head. That is exercise; the process of committing it to paper is action. Without action, where would we be?

Did I mention that Julia and I have now spent two years in this place? It is 1766. We could, no doubt, leave as soon as we wished; we have learned enough to let us survive quite adequately amongst our mortal kin -- better than before, at the very least, for now we can avoid the circumstances that culminated in Constance's death, and escape detection with much greater ease. It is our friends who keep us here, and the contentment at knowing we are, for the time being, safe; the knowledge that we are free to go, but choose to stay, makes them happy as well.

I do not doubt that, someday, we will feel the urge to leave; our new family is used to losing their kin. Our numbers have changed since Julia and I came; some have left, others come to take their place. No one, it seems, stays forever, but they all come to learn and relearn the things they have forgotten in their years. None of us minds, of course; it adds variety, new faces to complement our strengths -- and information about the world we have, in a sense, left. For they come from all over the world; the first night they are here, the only talk is of far-away lands, who has deposed whom; what countries are at war.

One Michael O'Kerry came recently from the Americas, where his mortal family had settled. They thought him dead, so he did not contact them, but the colony was of much greater interest. Although it is, as far as we are concerned, a harbour for barbarians, it is also a potential sanctuary. It is said to be tiring of European rule, and especially European religion: already it has attracted thousands of dissatisfied mortals who seek the freedom to think as they wish. Would it allow us to live as we wished? O'Kerry didn't think so; as everywhere, we would need to be circumspect, but we could live there nonetheless. Cities are developing; cities have all that we need. And though we do not actively plan to leave, O'Kerry has begun teaching the English language -- just in case.

I went walking last night, alone, through Vienna's streets. I thought about everything I have thus far seen, and what I have left to see, about how mankind has changed since my naissance and the changes it will no doubt go through. But one thing is constant: life. No matter the year, the place, the language -- life goes on. Life is. It is its own justification and its own purpose, the beginning and the end. I find it odd that it should take me eighty-eight years to realize what ought to have been visible from the beginning, but all my life I have been told otherwise: God is the reason for life; life is only temporary, and death eternal; the only meaning in life can be found if you are empty. Those are fantasy, thought without action; the action is taking your life and filling it yourself. Become your purpose, live your justification! Then you will know God.

I have not told those thoughts to anyone yet; I don't know if they would understand. It is as though we have lived in a different world all these years, my comrades and I: they see life as an endless struggle, won only at the end. There is a struggle, but not with living, only death. It will not end for me. I do not want it to.

In the two years that we have stayed here, Julia has changed. Whether for better or worse, I am still seeking to determine. When we came, she would take no blood from the addicts that the Citadel keeps like human cattle. That has not changed -- if anything, she abhors them even more -- but now I know the reason.

Last night, after I had fed -- the drug has long since ceased to bother me -- and after she had drunk from me, she did not leave me, as she had all the other nights. "This is a precedent," I said, when she offered me her hand. She stood before me, her cheeks still pale, her hands white against the red satin of her dress. She smiled shyly, and turned away from me, as though ashamed.

"I have never told you why... why I will not drink from... those mortals," she said quietly. "Even though it has been two years since we came here, and even though I have been with you for six, even though I love you with all my soul, I have not yet been able to let it go." She looked back at me, bowed her head, and knelt down in front of me. "I owe you at least a reason, and I know that you want to know it." I nodded gravely; inside I was still awed that she would at last confide in me.

"I know you remember what happened on that first night, when they gave me Eros -- I can feel it when you think about it. You want to know why his blood affected me as it did, you need to know what I have hidden from you. I am grateful that you did not seek to obtain that knowledge by force; I could not have forgiven you if you had, as Mephistopheles did..." Her voice trailed off; I took her other hand into mine and pressed them both to my heart. It was all the encouragement she needed.

"I pity them too much," she whispered. "I... empathize with them; I could not bring myself to take them when I knew what they were. Alexandrei, I used to be like them! I might have ended up here among them if not for you.

"I had been taking the same drug for three years when you met me. You know, it was like vampirism in reverse: instead of killing other mortals, I was bringing my mortality closer. And with the drug, rather than needing less as time goes on, you need more and more. I was living for the feeling it gave me; now, it is the product of the feeling that makes me live. But both are addictions, the blood and its antithesis, one that brings you life, and one that brings you death. I was near death that night and I knew it.

"You thought of me as a child then, and you do now. But I knew things no child should know. For two years, Alexandrei, I had to support myself and the growing habit I had taken on, and there was only one way to do it..." She closed her eyes, remembering; I caught a brief image of a rainy night, a flash of pain, tears gone unshed in a torrent of fear and shame. My heart ached for her; Julia had done this? And still become the woman she was? I took her into my arms, told her the rest could go unsaid if she wished. She did not.

"The group I was with that night -- it was my only distraction," she continued. "It was also my source for the drug. But the day after we talked, after you left, I learned that two of them had died that night, taking it. And when I remembered what you had said, about life and about the kind of life you had, I knew it had to end. How could I live as I had been, when there were greater things to be?

"Alexandrei, I have read what you wrote of that night. You knew nothing of my past, of all the things I had done, the people who have done so much to me... I've read what you thought on our first night, and the one six months later... despite everything I have done, I still seemed a child to you. I have long wondered how that could be true -- but tonight I realized it: you've seen so much in your time that any mortal is a child. And that makes you blind to what is sometimes the truth, and more terrible than all of your years. I was no child when you had me, Alexandrei; I would have ended up in this place even without you -- but by now I would be long dead!"

And then the tears came, tears that she had hidden for six years. I held her as she sobbed, letting the pain dissolve, evaporate into memory. All she had sought was absolution, the kind only love could give her. I gave it to her then, to her and to another who had been as great a force in my life, who I remember now.

I, too, recently read my manuscript again, and discovered something I never should have missed. On the night that Perdita -- Death, if you will -- came here, She showed me the epilogue of Deirdre's life. I cannot believe she is dead; though I have wished for it for so long, it doesn't seem right. And to be killed by the One who had never killed before... I don't know whether I should trust it or not, the vision She gave me. Deirdre has always been there, somewhere in the distance. More than that, she gave me immortality, and I can't help but feel that I would know it if she died, if only to sense the emptiness. Now there is nothing, as there has been since we parted. There was nothing when Nikolai brought me to her in 1746. Twenty years ago...

I must stop now; the sun will be up soon and I do not wish to face it yet.


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