as always, the truth lies just beneath the surface [story part 35]
September 25, 2012 § 14 Comments
And tomorrow did come, and home we did go. But home wasn’t for her what was for me.
Getting to the airport was a blast – I don’t even want to remember it. When we did get there, for the second time in a very short period of time, we were once again buying tickets straight from the airport. No reservations, no pre-booking, no man to wait for her and hand her the tickets as she walked in.
I wasn’t sure if this was “going towards normality” or “going towards chaos” – for her, because for me it surely seemed more normal.
In any case – there we were.
<Arrivals> – <Departures>
“Left! We have to go left!” – I said.
“Regina, left!” – I said again while spinning around in circles not knowing if she’s following or she has other plans.
“Wait here, I’m going for tickets.” – Now I don’t really know whether she actually bought them herself or not, but it seemed like it.
Only when we got near the gate did I realize we weren’t actually going to fly in a direction known to me.
Above the gate towards which we were rapidly approaching there was a big LCD reading “A2 – Departures – 12:15 – Rome – Boarding.”
“Ummm I don’t think we’re at the right gate.” I said.
“What do you mean?” Regina replied.
“Well these people are going to Rome…”
“So are we.”
“I’m sorry. What?”
“Where did you think we were going?”
“Yes. Home. That’s where we’re going.”
“Wait I think we have a bit of a confusion here. Whose home are we going to, to be more exact?”
I said nothing. I just… adopted a neutral face and looked in the distance.
“What? You didn’t think I had a home?”
“Well… no, not really. I mean you don’t seem to act like it. It seems to me you’re always on the go…”
This time she was the one who didn’t say anything. The line started moving. We were boarding. Well, that’s that I thought. Apparently I was going to Rome. Hurray?
By the time we got to Fiumicion Terminal C I was already at peace with the idea. After all I was the one who got confused, and nevertheless, getting the chance to see “home” – whatever that meant – was a too good to be turned down of an opportunity.
We took the train from the airport for… about half an hour. We were almost downtown Rome. Now we were heading towards the subway.
And the fun part began here.
It was always like this with her. Never knowing the plan in advance. Never knowing where you’re going or what are you supposed to do. And for some people that might be the most stressful thing in life, not knowing what comes next. The unknown scares us for the most part, and we don’t really want to have anything to do with it. On the other hand, there are the few that are always attracted by the unknown, looking to see more, to do more, to explore. I’m talking about climbers or explorers, cave explorers, any explorers. Those that do not fear the unknown. I wasn’t part of them, but I wasn’t scared of it anyway. Call it a neutral feeling.
We descended in the subway, and instead of getting into a train, Regina seemed a bit confused.
She kept looking left and right, left and right, until there was no subway stopped and nobody around.
“Are we waiting for someone… some… thing?”
And she jumped on the tracks. “Come quick.”
And I did. Without saying anything, without opposing the idea that I might get electrocuted right there and then. I had no idea which track “you shouldn’t touch” – but I did know that one of them was not cool with being touched.
We only walked about 40-50 meters, and then she suddenly turned a right, opened a door, went down a corridor, turned another right and then we were faced with a pretty long corridor that apparently went on forever, and which was also flanked from 5 to 5 meters or so by large square stones, asymmetrically arranged spanning across the full length of the corridor. On top of each of these stones was a thick steel beam supporting the ceiling. I figured they were support beams, considering how old the town was and everything.
Regina looked closely at each and one of them, and then stopped in front of one. She pushed the beam aside and then started pushing that stone rock like her life was dependent on it.
“If you’re taking me in another crypt I’m not coming. I’m telling you now, Sweden was enough.”
“Shut up and help me.” – But that wasn’t the case, because before I had the chance to fake helping her, the stone started moving and revealed an access hatch connected to whatever was downstairs by a metal ladder.
“I really do hope we’re just taking a detour and there actually are easier ways in getting to wherever we’re going.”
“Mmm maybe, but I’d rather not open other doors.”
Before going further, you have to know something: Rome has the biggest and oldest underground network ever discovered. It’s a whole town, the old Rome, buried under the new one. There are literally streets and buildings, rooms and passage ways that haven’t even been discovered yet, or only seen by a hand full of people. If you want to know more read this and this.
I had always imagined her without a home. But ever since I found out she actually had one, I imagined it more in the style she was. An old building, big, imposing, secluded, and yet modernly equipped and with quick access to a large city. Maybe even a butler, who knows.
But no. Instead, we were descending into the depths of hell, because that’s how it felt like. Cold and dark.
We walked and we walked and we walked.
And finally we ended… nowhere. We were faced with a large, thick, old and rough block of stone, the size of Jupiter, which marked the end of the tunnel. There was no right or left, no way around it.
But sure enough, Regina found a way, because the left side of it wasn’t made of rock. It wasn’t even old. It looked like the same material, but was mostly clay and on top of that – it was smart clay.
It had a soft-spot. It was either the material which was special, or the way it was made. Either way, it wasn’t more than two inches thick. Regina felt the whole left side (which was about 20% of the whole thing) with her palm from top to middle and stopped in one place then quickly squeezed her hand into a fist and pushed in a short – but powerful – burst. The whole thing came down in front of us.
“Welcome home.” She said.
“Where the hell are we….?” I asked as we were descending once again through a tunnel.
“Yes, but where exactly in Rome?”
“I don’t have an address if that’s what you’re asking.”
“No, I mean what’s on top of us…? Aren’t you in danger of like… someone wanting to make a subway line through your living room?”
“No… not really. There are mostly only old protected buildings above us.” – We were, after all, in Rome. It only made sense and I didn’t give it another thought.
“We’re actually under the Vatican.”
My heart stood still. For several reasons.
“You’ve got to be joking. I mean seriously. From all the places in the world, you decided to live in the Vatican?! Can you mock everything more than this?”
Seriously. You just can’t make these things up. Movies can’t even describe such a thing. But there we were. Under the Vatican, me and a the vampire. This was just too much. Of all the things I had seen – of everything – really weird, unexplainable (some) and just plain hard to digest things – this was the worst (best?). The irony and the degree of mockery cannot be properly described in words. I had later to learn that this was no case of irony or mockery, and it did serve a very, very special purpose.
OK that was the first reason my heart stood still. I just didn’t know if I wanted to go further or not. Because we weren’t actually inside anything that even started to resemble a house. We were more in a basement.
We were crossing a very small and narrow bridge, that went over nothing, but looked like a bridge, a stone bridge, and in the distance, on each of the sides, there was a straight white marble wall with a cross sculpted into it and blackened with what seemed like coal, or graphite, or something like that. It wasn’t paint, it didn’t look like paint. We were under the Vatican alright, and what a view, and what an irony.
We finally arrived to what seemed like a door, but there was no door there, just a very narrow arch that quickly turned to the left and then went up in a small, narrow – but short – corridor.
At the end of the corridor, we were finally there. All in all, from getting off the train until stepping inside the “house” – took us just over two hours. I figured she could be quicker by her own, but no way you do this under an hour.
As soon as she turned on the lights – a combination of candles, lamps and light bulbs (yes, there was electricity down there) – I was in awe.
We were standing in a big hallway that was shaped like half a circle. We came from the back, and in front of us, there was the arched view of the circle, with three rooms – like choosing your fate.
You could see in all of the three rooms from there. They had no doors. It was more like one big arch with two walls separating three separate entrances. Each of the rooms was huge, and they were connected among themselves also through a second arch in each of them, in the middle of the wall.
One of the rooms served as a bathroom. All of it. It was huge. These were no ordinary rooms. Imagine the inside of medieval church, each room being at least 50 meters long and at least 20 meters wide, and with ceilings that spanned upwards until it became too dark to see. You literally could not see where the ceiling ended. They were that high. The echo in each of these rooms was just plain amazing, and annoying in the same time, and with Regina’s hearing I could bet she heard anything and anyone from a great distance.
The room that served as a bathroom had its own pool – with continuously flowing hot water – that overflowed all the time in a reservoir. Other than that, it had everything a bathroom needed, equipped with modern and old things alike. The whole front wall was taped with mirrors and the whole room was rather dark, only illuminated by the light in the pool and later a few candles in one of the corners of the pool, which also had around it, within reaching distance, a half empty bottle of wine.
The second room was more of an entertainment/training/living room. One side of the room, all across it, 50 meters long, had a bookshelf full with books. It was a damn library. I didn’t recognize half of them. The very end of the room had three chairs around a small but sturdy, brown oak table. Right at the entrance, to the left, there was a training area of around 20 square meters – there were ropes hanging from the ceiling and most of the equipment was just non-moving steel bars and handles made for climbing, staying in balance on them or god knows what. The right hand side of the room had everything your heart could desire in the matter of electronics, from large screen projectors to stacks of hard-drives, servers, and hundreds of CD’s. Old and new were merging together, like everything here, from CD players, VCR, to old gramophones, from stacks of hard-drives to stacks of diapositives. A whole library and in the same time an entertainment room. A small wine selection was laying in a shelf near the big leather chairs and the table, and other than that the whole thing, the whole room, was tapered in paintings looking down on you.
The third room was the bedroom. It was both the quietest and most peaceful bedroom in the world, and also the most horrifying one.
There wasn’t really anything there. Imagine a 50 by 20 meters room, that you can’t see the end of it or the height of it because it just seems to have none of those due to the low light. This room had a bed in the middle of it – a bed the size of which I had never seen. It could easily fit at least 10 people on it, maybe more. It was the size of maybe 6 or seven king-sized beds put together in a perfect square. The whole thing was covered in layers and layers of huge, thin purple silk sheets. You could go under one, two, three, ten or more layers, as many as you wanted. This was also the most sad bed in the world. One single small lonely pillow in one corner. That’s it. That whole gigantic bed and one pillow.
One single thick rope was lingering above the bed, it was attached to the ceiling and when looking up at it you couldn’t exactly see where it led. It was just a rope descending from nothingness above the bed. In case of trouble I figured.
Regina pulled down a thick wooden door – more like a wall – after we entered, and sealed it by pushing it into a perfectly fit shape in the wall. We were sealed there.
The whole area, the whole place was covered in a thick black dust and spider webs the likes you’ve never seen.
I didn’t say anything, and nobody started cleaning. We just cleaned whatever we used next.
She started lightning more and more candles from one room to another room, and more and more lamps and light bulbs, until the whole area became rather visible and bearable. It was cold and damp as hell and stank of mold, but slowly it started getting warmer, more welcoming, dryer and the smell started going away, as we started actually staying there and stirring things up.
Regina headed straight for the pool and leaned in to check the water with one hand. She smiled.
“Eleven years… and still warm. Now that’s what I call welcoming.”
“Wait, you haven’t been here in eleven years?”
“No, I don’t come that often…”
Well that explained the dust and everything.
She undressed and was in the pool taking a bath before we finished speaking. I followed. The feeling of swimming in a catacomb was overwhelming, eerie but pleasant and quiet in the same time. Just like taking a bath in a warm-ish lake during a summer night.
After that we went in the living room and she started turning on one thing after another, computer after computer, screen after screen, they were all turning back to life, shedding their dust outer shell and aligning into a smooth, soothing humming sound, after the beeps and lights calmed down. The whole room started glowing and getting a whole different kind of light, with images reflecting from one brick to the other.
She then headed slowly towards the piano in the corner and sat down…[audio http://k006.kiwi6.com/hotlink/ss5hunhhh3/beethoven_moonlight_sonata_sonata_al_chiaro_di_luna_.mp3]
I slowly approached her and put my hands on top of hers and gently started playing together with her until she took her hands down and left me to continue. She just stood there, frozen, without saying anything, with me lingering above her head, smelling her hair and playing one of the only three songs I can play. I can’t play the piano, not really, I just learned them by heart.
“BANG” “BANG” – I stopped playing and we both jolted up. What the hell. Who’s there, what’s happening, who knows we’re here. We’re trapped. Oh god…
“I can’t even have five minutes for myself…” She said angrily while heading towards the bookshelves behind us.
She pulled one of the shelves away and pried open a door an iron door locked from top to bottom with three metal bars going across it from left to right.
I was already prepared to run.
Upon opening the door, a small figured appeared, an old man. A priest.
WHAT?! Oh this can’t get any better.
But it did. The priest bowed his head, looked at me and then looked back and said something in Italian. He moved aside and from behind him, a taller, more imposing man appeared, also a priest I figured, but dressed casually with only the collar giving him away and the cross around his neck.
Regina kissed his hand and they both bowed their heads slightly to one another.
Well, I thought, this is something else…
The old man handed us both a suitcase with clothes in it. How the hell did he know I was here? How did they know anyone was here? I later asked Regina about it and she pointed up all around us. There were cameras, all around us there were surveillance cameras! I couldn’t believe it! She agreed to let herself filmed?! Granted, as long as she didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, there was no need for her to worry.
She told me that “All weapons can fire in two opposite directions” meaning that she had as many reasons to worry for being filmed as they had for filming her. I wondered if it was recorded. It wasn’t, apparently. But you never know.
Regina and the priest talked in Italian while we both got dressed. She took of the clothes that she had on her right there in front of the two priests like they weren’t even there, while they were still talking casually, and she got dressed. I followed. This seemed way too awkward for me, but I kept pushing and pushing myself into putting myself into her shoes. I kept trying to imagine how I would feel about each and every situation if I was her. And apparently the less ashamed you are of your body, the less pudic you are. In that regard, I don’t think she would have had any problems walking naked through Trafalgar square.
From what I could muster in my broken Italian, I understood that there were others that knew about her, there was someone else we had to talk with about the attacks in Turkey, and that they would help her in any way possible. I also understood that we had to go.
We were given two crosses to put around our necks, which we both did. Seeing Regina dressed as bland as possible, in a gray skirt and a gloomy shirt, with a cross around her neck and her hair tied behind her back, I couldn’t help but laugh. They all looked at me like at some distracted kid, which I was. But you have to give it to me, this was too ironic and too funny to not at least smile.
It was like in those times when something so unbelievable or unexpected, but most of the times bad, happens to you, that you just give up and jump over being angry, straight to laughing… out of self-pity. I didn’t pity myself, but I just laughed in the same way. Just like when you’re too tired to even think anymore and everything seems funny. It was out of this world for me, seeing her like that, knowing what she is and knowing what the whole world thinks about her kind.
We followed the two priests up a corridor, out of the house (crypt, catacomb?). One priest in front of us, one behind us. And as the old priest closed the door behind us, through where they came from, I could see sculpted in rock above the door, three small words.
Ancient latin letters. There were others like it, all around the house, and before entering it from the other side, but they were all half of word, erased, some meaningless, some without any context, some were names….
However this inscription… this inscription read something else.
I’ll leave you to decipher what it said, and because I lack the means of actually writing in ancient Latin here, I wrote it by hand.
you crazy bitch, you’ve done it again [story part 34]
September 22, 2012 § 5 Comments
The plan was to get to Gunnar and convince him in coming with us until we (she) figured out who’s behind all of this, and if there really is someone attacking the ones that are closest to her. I tought of me, but I wasn’t a vampire, I figured I should be safe. You never know.
However, like all plans, this one had a glitch too. There needed to be a Gunnar to convince in the first place, which was not the case here. Gunnar was missing.
We searched everywhere. There were no footprints in the snow, which was already almost 10 inches high. It was still snowing, so that couldn’t have helped much anyway. The front door was unlocked, everything in the house was in order, nothing broken, no sign of fight.
The fireplace was cold, if there was a fire there, it was long gone. We checked everything and at one point Regina even started screaming from the top of her lungs for him. Nothing. The scream itself, couldn’t have gone that far into the woods. The blanket of white, fresh snow was covering everything and proved to be a very good insulator against sound. The snow dampened everything.
We stayed around for maybe another half an hour or so, checked the basement and the small shed with the horses there. They were locked each in his own little space, and the stash of hay was in front of them, no even 10 feet away. A stash that was supposed to last through the winter. They were starving. I couldn’t help it and let them free – I hoped they wouldn’t eat more than they needed – there was plenty of water around us. Hoped they survived.
There was no point in waiting, he was clearly missing for the past three or four days, and he wouldn’t let the horses just starve like that if he intentionally went away by himself. Or the door unlocked, and a few other things that people usually do before leaving the house, like closing the damn upstairs window.
Something happened to Gunnar, alas, he wasn’t dead – yet – just missing. But then and there, it was clear that someone, something, was on to Regina, on to her offspring. This was no coincidence anymore, Blanche, Viktoria and Gunnar – they were all attacked in the same night – thousands of miles from one another. This was coordinated, well tought, and it involved humans and vampires alike.
From there, we went straight to the meeting. This one wasn’t called for by Regina, but by the elders themselves.
There was a minimum cvorum to be met, for a meeting to have a valid reason – at least 6 elders, or 5 regions. It was met on both ends, and she had to attend.
The issue was not necessarily directly related to the attack problem, but to the fact that Viktoria was attacked by humans, a group, and in a no-go zone. She had to explain herself . There isn’t much control in their world, but when it comes to one of the highest members breaking two or three rules in the same night, there needs to be some sort of clarification.
We were heading for that meeting, which took place in Scotland. Yes, Scotland. I have never, ever seen such a beautiful place in my entire life until then – and from then onwards up until now. Not Scotland, not all of it – but the actual place where we went. I can’t recall the name (I don’t know if I was ever told the name anyway) – but it was this beautiful mansion – hell, castle – somewhere around or near Inverness. Huge, eight or nine huge 18th century style rooms, all having their own fireplace, their own bathroom and more importantly, four-poster beds. I felt like at home in a way, but much better.
I can’t even describe it – you have to see it – I would have posted a photo but I can’t recall the name.
It seemed to be like the one in France, perfectly equipped with everything you need, beds made hotel style, I figured it was either a hotel, or a rental, but not a private residence. It was too standardized to be a private residence, I didn’t ask.
In any case, we landed in Glasgow at around 22:00 and headed straight for a pub.
Nobody waiting at the airport – Where’s your god now, ha?!
And now the fun part began:[audio http://k006.kiwi6.com/hotlink/6ae2glh3mt/02_-_days_to_come_feat._bajka_.mp3]
It was dark, cold and snowing. We took a cab to “any open pub”. Seriously?
We got of the cab in front of a bar named either ‘the old sheep’ or ‘the old ship’.
“Wait here.” Regina said.
“I’m freezing cold. What the hell are we doing?” I was more than confused.
“Just go sit in a corner for five minutes, time out a bit.” She said and with that went inside the pub.
Regina never, ever told me stay out, or you’re not allowed to come in, and because of that, I didn’t insist. If she had a reason for me to stay out, I would stay out. This was no time to piss anyone one, neither her, nor myself. We were both hungry, tired and cold. Really cold.
Five minutes later, Regina comes out in a hurry, with new clothes, classy ones.
“What the hell did you just do?”
She didn’t say anything and started going in one direction, then changed it and we went in the other way around.
Imagine this: a crazy girl in the middle of the night, snowing, running from one side to the other of a road, searching for something, while a dude is chasing her, trying to keep up.
Finally, a car made the familiar beep beep sound and she got in.
You’ve got to be shitting me.
I was just happy we were not out in the cold anymore. But wait, there’s more.
The moment I got in the car, just a fraction before the light going out as she started the car, I’ve noticed a tiny bit of red on her new jacket. Blood.
I realized what had just happened.
“So….” I didn’t even say anything.
“Do you need a detailed plan with points and sub-points with what just happened? I’ll tell you what happened: When you get in a new city during the night, with no means of transportation, hungry as hell, and cold, then, you need a human.”
“Do you think this is the first time I’ve done this? How do you think I lived over the centuries? I didn’t always had someone at my disposal.”
“We’ve been on the road for three days and I’m really, really hungry.” She said and started accelerating.
“Check if your mirrors are properly set for your line of sight dear.” I smiled.
“Very funny.” She replied in a sarcastic tone, and we were off.
And I felt for her. I truly did. She was basically a homeless child. Seriously. She perfected the art of going in, taking what she needed, and getting out, in under five minutes. And I bet she did this thousands of times, in thousands of cities, all around the world.
I was happy she wasn’t so self entitled anymore to take from me. She did, quite often, but only when I had the chance to also eat and rest properly, otherwise she insisted on feeding on others. I couldn’t blame her.
By the time we got to the castle, everybody was there, including Blanche, but not Viktoria nor Lars.
I hugged Blanche like she just came back from the dead. See what I did there?
I did. And she told me she had to get out by herself, because there wasn’t anyone to get her out. I felt bad for her. Imagine, digging your way out from a grave. Well it wasn’t that bad. She wasn’t buried, of course not. Just put in a coffin, in a crypt, with a stone lid. Nothing she couldn’t handle. Blanche was officialy dead to the world.
I apologized for not being there, and explained why. When she heard about Viktoria, because apparently nobody had told her, she freaked out.
Regina entered the castle in a hurry, pacing the hallway with really hard steps, imposing steps, demanding steps. Head held high, fast-paced, she didn’t say anything to anyone, but instead headed straight for the dinning hall.
The elders present there were Karl, Jackson, Nikita, Giorgio and Edmund. Lars was missing. I expected more of them, for example the elder of the UK, Arthur, wasn’t there. And we were on his territory. I know his name sounds a bit stereotypical and made up, but that was his name. I won’t invent another name just because I want to make this story more credible. Arthur was the name of the elder of the UK, and he wasn’t there. Period.
By the way, the UK doesn’t include London. London has three different elders.
I sat in a corner away from everybody, making myself as small as possible, while Regina gathered everyone, without saying anything, around the table.
“Whoever is behind this is going to have a very bad couple of months….”
“Surely you don’t think it was someone among us?”
“Who else could have the knowledge or power to plan such a thing?”
“Any human or vampire can hatch such a plan! It’s preposterous to accuse us!”
“I’m not accusing anyone. But we have to deal with this quickly. We cannot reveal ourselves just like that, not now, not there!”
“It seems to me that you’re the one revealing too much….” Said Edmund while looking at me.
Regina said nothing in return, just stared at him. I stared at him too, from ten feet away. Everyone else was staring at me.
“I think you lived long enough to realize why he’s here… of all the people, you should know better.”
Later I found out the reasoning behind this. Most of them, especially Edmund, but other elders too, had something in common. All of them were turned by their makers straight into strigoi, over night, but only after having spent months or even years with them, from a young age. They were raised into it, and left to make their own choice. Apparently this yielded ambition, loyalty and no depression nor regrets over the years…. I kind of understood that. Regina turning me by force would have probably meant years of hatred, and a feeling of robbing me of my life which would have never ever went away. Gunnar was a good example of forced turning.
Meanwhile, Lars and Viktoria pulled in front of the castle. He literally got her inside like a sack of potatoes, on a shoulder, and dropped her on the table. She was a mess.
History was repeating itself.
Regina quickly jumped over her and started stroking her, pep talking her and trying to ease any pain she had. It was clear for everyone around, me included, that Regina cared for Viktoria more than she let out. I don’t think she cared for anyone else as much as she cared for Viktoria, even if sometimes she got more than violent with her.
“It seems to me that not even a year ago we were having the same kind of gathering, with Viktoria almost being in the same position.” Karl said, trying to show a fake smile and putting his blond hair on one side, leaning on the fireplace like he had no cares, with a glass of wine in his hand.
“Your point being?” Regina said, clenching her jaw and tensing up.
“I hope there won’t be a third time soon.”
“I took out as many as I could, but there’s still plenty left.” Lars said, while making more room on the table.
He was talking about Viktoria which was literally punctured from top to bottom by holes. Larger, smaller, straight or skewed, on all sides. Some were bloody, almost closed, some were closed already, but she was squirming in pain. I figured that ought to hurt.
“You crazy bitch, you’ve done it again!” Regina yelled at her while ripping Viktoria’s clothes off, or what was left of them.
Blanche was sitting on the table, behind her, above her head, holding Viktoria’s head on her lap.
“They tried grabbing me! I was minding my own business and they just came out of nowhere and tried grabbing me!”
“Wait, they tried to kidnap you?” I stood up and said while approaching the table. Regina was looking at me and we were both thinking about the same thing, Gunnar.
“Yes.” Viktoria said.
“Gunnar was taken.” Regina said, and with that they all gasped.
“WHAT?” They exclaimed in unison. It seemed to me that Lars was the one most pissed by this. Figures.
“But he wasn’t just anyone! He was of you! He was stronger than all of us combined!” Some didn’t agree with this, but none contested it.
“Well then, that just proves there’s someone really powerful behind this.” Regina said.
“Or really smart…” I said while I approached Viktoria.
“How many were there?” Regina said, and by now she was opening up each closed wound where she could feel any foreign object, and as soon as she opened it, the bullets started coming out, some by themselves, some by force. Viktoria was screaming from the top of her lungs.
“An… army…” Viktoria said and clenched her jaw in pain.
“HOW MANY?” Regina said again and inserted her fingers deeper in a wound.
“40-50!” Viktoria blurted out.
“How many escaped?”
“One… two maybe… I’m sorry… I was taken by surprise.”
Holy shit I thought. Talk about the Terminator, he’s nothing compared to her. I wouldn’t have wanted to see what she did when she wasn’t taken by surprise. World domination probably.
By now, Viktoria was near unconscious. The amount of blood she had lost was already visible there, in the room, not even considering what she lost on the way here.
“Food.” Regina exclaimed.
“There isn’t any.” Edmund said.
“I’m sorry. What?”
“Arthur was supposed to bring it, but he’s either late or we have another mystery on our hands.” He explained.
Upon hearing that, I felt shivers down my spine…. Holy crap, I was the only slice of pizza in a room full of potheads with the munchies.
I went near Viktoria and I smiled at her… then I put my left hand on top of her head, and slowly underneath it… I tilted it just a notch and with my right hand I pulled on my sweater down. I kept stroking her head the whole time she fed, and, for the first time, she mustered a Thank you. Trust me, that meant more than all the thank yous I ever got in my whole life, put together.
There were mixed feelings about this. Some were pissed that I did that, some showed appreciation, some didn’t care.
Viktoria was clearly getting better in front of my eyes after this, and I needed to sit down. She took way more than Regina usually did. I felt every beat of my heart, and I felt like floating, unable to focus my eyes on a certain thing. Way too much.
Lars got me water and I thanked him. Regina and Blanche picked up Viktoria and took her to one of the bedrooms upstairs. She came back down in no time. Blanche stayed behind.
Downstairs, Arthur was finally making an entrance with four other people behind him. Three girls and a boy. Humans. Food.
I wasn’t nearly as revolted as I should have been, and I witnessed a full night of chatter while they were feeding on them in the same time. For them it was just normal sipping, and by the end of it, all of them were almost as drained as me. Pale, weak and sleepy. One of the girls sat next to me.
“So for how long have you been at it?” The girl said in a very thick Scottish accent. She was a local, clearly. I could barely understand what she was saying.
“At what?” And with that she realized, but didn’t say anything, that I wasn’t also a local.
“You know… a donor. Who are you with?” She asked, in connection with me not being a local. She figured I came with someone.
“I’m not… are you a donor?” I asked.
“Duh…” She replied.
“And how does that work?” I continued.
She was shocked. How could I not know how it worked.
“You don’t know? Who are you then?” She asked.
“I’m…. Regina is my sister.” I said.
“Who is Regina? That one?” Clearly, the only girl at the table. But that showed me that she had no idea who each of them was. They truly were mere food. No friends, no close nothing, just humans – food. I wondered what will happen with them, because they clearly didn’t know that any human that knows about them must either be turned or die.
And she believed me, also, that Regina was my sister.
“And why doesn’t she turn you?” She continued. And without allowing me to answer, she continued:
“I can’t wait for the day when I get my chance to be turned. But I’m too young still.” – I wondered if this was something she decided, or someone lied to her about that. In any case, I wasn’t too keen on making any friends that night.
Point was, that nothing of importance was discussed as long as they were there, the other people. After the elders and Regina got their spirits up and relaxed a bit, Arthur made a subtle sign to one of the humans and they all left.
As soon as they did that, they started speaking more seriously.
“So. I understand now, if we are to believe her, that it wasn’t her fault for exposing herself to the humans. However, that doesn’t change the fact. There still are some of them alive, knowing who she is and what she is, and they aren’t in our reach.” Karl said and Jackson nodded his head in agreement.
“And what was she doing there to begin with?” He added.
“She was following a lead, I had sent her to fix something for me, but I never tought that the trail would lead her there. I think this might be a gray area gentlemen. Surely, it’s forbidden to go there, but this is really important for me, and if it turns out that I’m right, for all of us.”
“I’m on to tracing down Sigismund. And I have reasons to believe he might still be alive.”
They all froze in place.
“Well that changes things… considerably. We don’t want that, do we?” Lars said.
“I’m not sure…” Regina said. I didn’t understand, she still had the love for him, but for some reasons they all feared him and didn’t really wanted him back. And they never met him. Was it what Regina told them about him? Was it some history that I didn’t know? Was it that they were too comfortable with the way things were, and didn’t want everything to turn to chaos with the ruling hand gone – because if Regina would have stopped to be the oldest – well – that changed everything.
“As soon as she regains her strength we’re going back there and we’re solving this. I promise you that. But in the meanwhile, all of you have to work together to find out who is behind this. I’m being threatened and I don’t need to remind you of your duty.” Regina said.
“You’re not crossing the border! And that’s that!” – They all agreed and formed a kind of a small resistance in front of her. This was no democracy, but Regina knew better not to oppose them just out of ego. She nodded.
“And you’re not exactly being threatened directly.” Edmund said.
“It sure feels like it. Or do you want to wait until someone actually tries to murder me too?! Or him?!” And she pointed towards me.
That was a loaded question, because they had mixed feelings about me. And I can’t blame them. There’s a reason I didn’t say anything or didn’t stay with them, and just kept to myself. All of them, Regina included, worked for centuries to be where they are, to decide such things and to have the power they had. And yet, there was this human kid, not even an adult, threatening to jump over all the steps and all the years, and just be a part of them – of the very top – just like that, because the queen says so? That didn’t sit well with them, and I understood. Some of them were nobodies for decades, even centuries, before gaining enough age, knowledge and influence to be able to be the elder of a zone.
All in all, this was a rather peaceful – and entertaining – for them at least, gathering. I figured they should do it more often, without a reason like this. They did, once every few decades apparently. Go figure.
We went to bed around 4 or 5 in the morning, and as we were going up the stairs, I could see the sorrow and anger in Regina’s eyes, and right there, out of everyone’s eyes, for the first time – I got close to her in a way that sometimes says more and offers more than even a kiss. I took her hand… it was as simple as that. I never really held her hand until that point. Not like that.
I slowly took her hand and got close to her and said nothing…. I just squeezed her hand in a reassuring way and she relaxed in an instant… she just became…. much softer. She let go and we went to bed without her releasing my hand the whole night.
You would think that a being so old and who has seen so much violence and so much sorrow, would be immune to emotions and affection, stone heart they call it. But Regina wasn’t like that. She enjoyed life when life was enjoyable, and she felt and gave love whenever there was any. She was just like you and me, if not more.
You would also think that they would prefer to be alone, with their thoughts, in the shadows, but that’s false. Nobody wants to live a life by himself, not mentioning roaming alone through the centuries. We fell asleep holding each other face to face and smiling, and her last words before falling asleep were:
“Tomorrow we’re going home…”
the forbidden land [story part 33]
September 20, 2012 § 3 Comments
A man dies twice. When his heart stops beating and when his name is spoken for the last time.
I wondered how long it would take in Blanche’s case to forget about her, because indeed, that is true death – disappearing from the minds of everyone you’ve ever loved, forever.
We were not yet out of the cemetery itself when Regina’s focus shifted from nothing, from relaxed, to full attention towards a flight of stairs that led to the other entrance. I didn’t hear anything but by now I was pretty accustomed to the fact that no, she wasn’t predicting the future, she was just expecting – or hearing – or having better senses, and could notice something before I did, most of the time. Sure enough, a minute later, a very common man, nothing out of the ordinary, around his thirties, medium sized guy with a local sense of fashion, approached.
Small side-story here:
He could have passed as a local and I wondered if he was someone from the town. I don’t know whether he was a human or a vampire. There are a lot of persons that I never found out about if they are one or the other, and this just proves to me, and maybe to some of you, how ordinary and common they are. Even for someone who has spent quite a considerable time with them, it’s damn near impossible to tell. And if I was to take this even further, and hypothetically make someone choose from two people, one human and one vampire, I’m fairly certain he would pick the human as being the vampire. They are just really, really… inconspicuous and hard to tell.
Like I said time and time again: the only real way that you can find out if someone is a vampire or not is by wounding him. This is something THEY CANNOT CONTROL. And I cannot stress this enough. Healing themselves is NOT subject to self-control. It’s a very strong mechanism that kicks in the second one is wounded, no matter if he’s conscious or not, dead or alive. As long as rigor mortis has not yet dissipated. If you don’t know what that is, read about it – but it’s basically the stiffening of the muscles post death, which occurs about two hours after death in humans, and about 12 hours after death in vampires. It lasts for two to six days in humans, and about a week or more in vampires, depending on how old they are. The vampire continues to heal through rigor mortis, and eventually springs back to life. This is the key to their eternal life.
HOWEVER – if the wound is prevented from healing – or the damage is just too great, rigor mortis dissipates and decomposition occurs. Once decomposition sets in, that’s it. This can be done in several ways – leaving the weapon inside the vampire – like a stake, you HAVE to leave it there for the full duration, or decapitation – which basically ensures that no healing will occur whatsoever, and decomposition sets in much faster. I’m sure you can get creative here anyway.
And one last point: rigor mortis can be extended indefinitely for vampires, in sub-zero temperatures.
End of side-story.
He approached Regina, did a very subtle nod towards me and her, and then stared a bit at Regina in an inquisitive kind of way.
Regina looked at me and then back at the man, and said: “Yes.”
I figured he was asking for permission to speak – not in the literal sense, but in the sense of “Who’s this guy and can I speak freely in front of him?”
She didn’t bother introducing anyone, which normally wasn’t the case, but right there and then I knew that he was no close acquaintance of hers, and I even doubted that they knew each other prior to this.
“Message to central five minutes ago. Viktoria attacked by unknown group of humans. She requires your presence, the cvorum has been met.” – The man said.
And then proceeded to give her a piece of ordinary paper full of numbers and special characters from top to bottom. Nothing meaningful it seemed to me.
But before getting into that, I have to tell you that this was truly for the first time after years that I had the least bit of insight into their ways of communication, which will turn out to be even more and more complicated – and yet so simple – in the months to come.
I had absolutely (and still don’t) no idea how she was found anywhere, anytime whenever there was a need. Somebody just popped up and relayed a message. At least that was out of the puzzle. I knew there was a messenger. But how he got it in the first place – or how the one that sent the message even knew where to send it and where Regina was – remained a mystery for a long time.
Basically – they have a central – not a nest or anything – just one simple phone number to which someone answers no matter what, day and night, and then proceeds on sending the message through a number of channels from one point to the other, no matter if it is another person or another phone number. I soon understood that the messenger had to deliver the message as efficient as possible, as soon as possible and as personal as possible – you can see how those three contradict themselves, don’t you? I could never fully understand the whole network or its full extent, it was damn near impossible and it would had taken me a lifetime to learn. It was not a standard network, it relied heavily on word-of-mouth, it changed from area to area and there was a high degree of subjectivity involved, meaning that each messenger conveyed and kept in touch with Regina as he saw to be most fit and efficient way for the given situation and area. Intercepting a message in this network was almost impossible, because the network was deliberately made in a chaos to the untrained eye, but nonetheless, Regina’s location was always available, and I had no idea how.
I figured she was keeping a messenger nearby at all times, but I later found out that it was more a matter of a “check-in”. And that’s why establishing territorial boundaries and control was important before any kinship presence could be established. Because she always had each zone carefully established and with known people in it, it was a matter of a simple alert whenever she arrived at any – literally any – destination within the influence of the kinship. She checked in – simple as that – and someone was made available instantly to convey messages if needed – and to provide any needs. And she wasn’t the only one enjoying this apparently.
Now back to the paper she received.
She focused on it for about twenty seconds, and then for the first time seeing her in a rush and unsettled, she said:
“We need to leave. Now.”
She gave the paper back to the messenger which made his way back to where he came from, and we started going towards my house in a hurry.
“What happened?” I asked.
“That message was from Viktoria herself and she’s got herself in a bit of a mess. We really need to go as soon as possible.”
A code that only the two of them knew – ever. An artificial language developed by the two of them over centuries. And I’m not even joking. It was not just a code, but was a language in itself – I don’t really know if someone could ever decipher that, because it literally had no spaces, no word formations, no nothing. It was just random numbers and special characters, one after another, spanning over an entire page. I never tried understanding it, because it’s of no use – You could never decipher a language based on nothing, and even if taught, I could never learn it properly. I need to tell you: This wasn’t by any means common, or used by anyone else. It was just the two of them that understood it – they created it – together, and never taught it to anyone else. It was their little way of making sure they are truly communicating with one another, and nobody changed, intercepted or interfered with the message.
“Where are we going?” – I was by now almost running down the steps behind her.
“I don’t know. We just need to leave right away to get there.” – That was confusing enough. Regina always knew where she was going.
As soon as we got home I threw in a small bag a couple of clothes for any occasion really, and just shouted away “I’m leaving” to my folks. This time they weren’t so understanding. With Blanche’s funeral and all – although they knew everything about it – it wasn’t so easy for them to leave me just vanish away, again, without knowing where I was going or for how long. I was growing up – but not as fast as I would have liked.
I basically gave them no choice but to accept. I didn’t have the time nor the will to explain everything. I feel sorry now for how I made them feel, but there’s no room for regret now.
As we were rushing out the door, I asked Regina again about what happened, and only when we got in a car she relaxed a bit and told me what happened.
“Viktoria was attacked by a group of humans, she’s hurt apparently but safe for now. I need to deal with this urgently, because as you already know, there’s rarely one human than knows about me or her, not mentioning a group of them.”
“But Regina, if Viktoria was attacked not even two days after Blanche, doesn’t that ring a bell?”
“What?” – She replied.
“They are both… yours.”
“I would bet that this is a new trend, and we need to find all of those that you turned.”
She had an epiphany right there and then, and pushed the car even harder.
“Change of plans.”
We were in the airport in under 40 minutes and in a plane in under two hours. Although it took over eight hours in total to get there, we finally did.
We were in the plane.
“How many descendants do you have anyway?” – I wasn’t expecting an answer to this really, I felt it was way to personal, even for me, to ask her.
“Just three, out of which just Viktoria was planned if you must know.”
The three were of course Viktoria, Blanche and… Gunnar.
We were heading for Gunnar, and as soon as we landed in Gotheborg, Regina checked in with Lars, the elder of Scandinavia, and told him everything that has transpired, and more. It seemed to me, that from all her acquaintances and elders, Lars was the one she not on liked, but trusted, most. Except Viktoria. Maybe.
Lars was already aware of pretty much everything and was also prepared to leave. Later about that.
As we left his place, Regina ended the very short conversation with:
“…and whatever you do, don’t step over the border.”
And with that we were on our way straight for Gunnar. If you don’t remember who Gunnar is, read the post “vampires don’t dig for the past“, last part, after the last photo.
From Gotheborg we took a flight to Trondheim, Norway – the last bastion of Regina’s influence. Everything north of Trondheim, is a no-man’s land. I’m not saying there aren’t any of them, I’m just saying there’s no elder covering that area, be it Sweden or Norway. Scandinavia, north of Trondheim, is without influence. Nobody applies any rule there, and because of that, too few of them go and settle there permanently. The most gruesome stories I’ve heard between them took place there, in the middle of nowhere, with nobody hearing or ever knowing anything. Regina herself didn’t condemn anything as we talked on our way there. It was truly a ‘everything goes’ zone, but it’s rather safe for humans, because like I said – there are very few of them in such a large area, and none of them really stay there permanently. If you have something to do there, good, if you don’t, you’re most likely not going to be there anyway.
The flight to Trondheim was horrible enough, in the middle of the winter, but the drive there was even less pleasant. I honestly expected us to remain permanently trapped in the snow, and with nobody in sight and a hungry Regina next to me, my chances weren’t really good. I mean one can eat snow for only so long.
And while we were at it, we also talked about what she said to Lars.
You see, Viktoria was in triple-trouble.
First, a group of humans knew who she was and what she was, and wasn’t exactly clear if she was to be held accountable for this.
Second, she was in one of the very few areas in which Regina strictly told everyone not to go – for no apparent reason I thought – until then. There aren’t many places where a vampire can’t go, but one of those places is a considerable area of modern-day Turkey.
And third, she was very badly hurt.
Regina sent Lars to pick-her up and transport her to safety, guard her until the cvorum met. He was supposed to do this without stepping over the border, which is not a human border, but the territorial border of the kinship’s domain in Europe. It is basically the strait that divides Europe from the Middle East, it divides Istanbul in two, it is the strait that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.
Viktoria was on the wrong side of the border, and Lars needed to pick her up with the help of – you guessed it – humans. Even in a situation like this, Regina obeyed, or feared, going over that imaginary line.
We finally got to Gunnar. The plan was…